Quarter million grant for cancer research Sanquin

Derk Amsen investigates operation of immunological memory

Sanquin's Professor Derk Amsen has received a quarter of a million euros from the Dutch Cancer Foundation, KWF, for his research into a form of immunological memory that suppresses defense against cancer. With funding for this research, Sanquin Research expects to take another step in expanding cancer-fighting capabilities.

Professor Amsen explains: "Regulatory T cells are cells that regulate the action of our immune cells. They are normally indispensable in the body, but specifically in tumors, they are actually harmful because they protect the tumors from our immune cells. Tumors can be fought by selectively eliminating the regulatory T cells in the tumors."

Evidence has been found in Professor Amsen's laboratory that these tumor-specific regulatory T cells come from a type of progenitor cells that are not themselves in the tumor, but which continually make new regulatory T cells that go to the tumor. Such regulatory T cells would also help new cancer metastases grow at an early stage. So you want to turn off those regulatory T cells to prevent tumors from being continuously protected.

Amsen: "Most cancer patients who die from the disease end up dying not from the initial tumor, but from metastases. The research we want to do aims to test the existence of tumor-specific regulatory T cells and establish their function. Then a way can be sought to combat them. That would be a step forward in the treatment of cancer patients."