Research Theme 6

Mobilizing immune defence


In recent years, there has been a landmark change in how we think about the role of the immune system as a modifier of human tumour growth. Depending on the setting, interaction between the immune system and cancer cells can either limit or promote tumour growth. Currently, most evidence for the tumour-promoting activity of certain immune cell subsets comes from mouse model data and correlative clinical studies. This has led to the realization that tumours exploit components of the immune system for their own benefit. Immune cells and their molecular mediators have accordingly evolved into bona fide targets for therapeutic manipulation in cancer patients.

Theme aims

  1. Dissecting mechanisms of immune regulation – We aim to identify novel immunological checkpoints and pathways that appear in response to tumours. Fundamental understanding of these checkpoints and pathways will be essential for developing novel immunotherapeutic strategies. We will analyze the roles and mechanisms of immune checkpoints and perform genetic screening to identify new immune modulators.
  2. Understanding tumour-promoting effects of immune cells – Cancer cells can shape their immune environment to their own benefit. Using patient-derived tumour samples and several mouse models, we will study how crosstalk between tumours and their environment works. We will use this knowledge to study whether cancer cells’ alteration of their immune environment can be reversed via new therapeutic strategies.
  3. Understanding resistance to cancer immunotherapies – We aim to understand the limiting factors of existing cancer immunotherapies. Some cancer types respond to them better than others, the causes of therapy resistance are largely unknown, and adverse effects are often severe. Analyses of tumour micro-environments and the identification of causes of resistance will form the basis of therapies that can potentially overcome these current limiting factors.

Please find a more detailed description in our Strategic Plan.

Theme leader

Karin de Visser Research Management Committee


Linde Meyaard Oncode Investigator

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