University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC Utrecht) is participating in an international consortium which will be conducting pioneering research into new cancer treatments over the next four years. The research is being funded with € 6 million from the Dutch Cancer Society and will be conducted in cooperation with the American ‘Stand Up to Cancer’ programme and its scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research. The research team will be led by Hans Clevers, professor of Molecular Genetics at Utrecht University and president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and Hans Bos, professor of Physiological Chemistry at Utrecht University.
“We are conducting the tests on cultured tissue, not on the patients themselves, which avoids many, often unnecessary, side-effects.”
Hans Clevers, professor of Molecular Genetics at Utrecht University and KNAW president
The team will be working on ex vivo culturing of patient tumours. The fact that the tumour tissue continues to ‘live’ outside the body in the laboratory allows the researchers to test a large number of drugs (or combination of drugs) on it. This will tell them which tumours react best to which medication. As a result, it will be possible to determine the ideal treatment for each patient, without the patient having to try drugs unnecessarily. This helps, amongst other things, to reduce the side-effects experienced by the patient. With this research, customised treatment is closer to becoming a reality. The team is financed with money raised by the Dutch Cancer Society's annual ‘Stand Up to Cancer’ campaign. The study the team is now embarking upon has been preceded by no fewer than twenty years of fundamental cancer research, funded in part by the Dutch Cancer Society.
The Dutch Cancer Society believes that scientists can achieve results more quickly when they have common goals and are able to benefit from each other's expertise and facilities. Michel Rudolphie, director of the Dutch Cancer Society: “The funding allows the study to be conducted on a large scale in a relatively short period of time. Furthermore, the unique collaboration of top international researchers involved in this study means results can be achieved even more quickly. This speeds up the research process enormously, which translates into faster results for the patient!”
Professor Hans Clevers: “This new technology allows us to make a lot of progress all at once. We're able to run many more tests much faster, geared to the type of tumour and DNA mutation – before even trying them on people. Normally speaking, drugs are tested on patients for years and at the end you only have an answer to one question. What we're doing in this study accelerates this process enormously. We're testing thousands of substances at the same time, which saves a lot of time. We are conducting the tests on cultured tissue, not on the patients themselves, which avoids many, often unnecessary, side-effects. Now, only once we've tested a medication numerous times on cultured tissue will we begin testing it on specific individuals with that specific mutation. This allows us to provide personalised advice and therefore also prevent unnecessary treatment.”