Over 5 million for cell and gene therapy

The new national platform DARE-NL has received a grant of €5.3 million from the Dutch cancer fund KWF Kankerbestrijding. UMC Utrecht is the driving force behind the platform. DARE-NL will improve the availability of cell therapy and gene therapy. In this way, more patients can make use of these innovative treatments.

Cell therapy is a treatment with living body cells. These are usually cells from the patient's own immune system. These immune cells are taken from the blood and processed on a molecular level so that they can better recognize and destroy cancer cells. The processed cells are then administered to the patient by infusion. Gene therapy is used when the DNA of the immune cells is also modified.

Promising treatments not reaching the patient

Cell therapy and gene therapy are promising treatments. Many patients are free of disease for a prolonged period after treatment; some people even recover completely. Especially for patients that have run out of options, these novel therapies can offer a new perspective. Despite this great promise, there are not many cell and gene therapies available to patients at present. In fact, many cell and gene therapies are stranded during their development and do not reach the patient. There are several reasons for this, such as the complexities of the therapy and its safety. What also plays a role is that the knowledge and experience is fragmented across the Netherlands, few qualified people have been trained adequately, and the legislation and regulations are complicated.

A national infrastructure

The new national platform DARE-NL is going to change this. The platform brings together all knowledge and expertise in the field of cell and gene therapy in one national infrastructure. DARE-NL is a knowledge network, a platform for raw materials and technologies, and it ensures that patients can make use of cell and gene therapy. DARE-NL consists of renowned researchers from UMC Utrecht and the other Dutch university medical centers, the Princess Maxima Center for Pediatric Oncology, the Netherlands Cancer Institute/Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Sanquin Research and Utrecht University.

Tumor immunologist dr. Trudy Straetemans of UMC Utrecht is project leader and one of the initiators of the platform. "With this joining of forces, we can make the development and production of new cell therapies and gene therapies easier and faster," says Trudy. "In this way, we are bridging the gap between a new idea and its clinical implementation, so that in the future more people with cancer can benefit from these promising treatments."

Dr. Trudy Straetemans

Researchers eager to start

With the grant from Dutch Cancer Fund KWF, DARE-NL can get started right away. The first step is to take stock of already available knowledge and set up an IT platform to collect and share information. In addition, Trudy and her colleagues will work on the exchange and harmonization of materials, processes and knowledge, and the training of personnel.

DARE-NL is also a huge boost for UMC Utrecht's new Innovation Center for Advanced Therapies (ICAT). ICAT makes treatments with cell and gene therapy and other treatments from regenerative medicine more quickly and better available to patients. UMC Utrecht is one of the frontrunners in the field of cell and gene therapy. Developments like DARE-NL and ICAT help to strengthen this position.