The KWF Dutch Cancer Society has awarded two UG researchers funding for their research into cancer. Marco Demaria and Anika Nagelkerke are among the 21 researchers working on the ‘Exploration’ project. This project is a collection of studies of a more fundamental nature, which focus on the emergence and mechanism of cancer. Thanks to its donors, KWF is able to finance hundreds of research projects investigating a wide range of subjects relating to cancer.
‘Targeting cellular senescence to alleviate anthracyclines-induced toxicity’.
Prof. Marco Demaria, associate professor of biology and cell biology, specializes in ageing, cancer and cellular ageing. The title of his research project is: ‘Targeting cellular senescence to alleviate anthracyclines-induced toxicity’.
His research has come from the fact that, even though very helfpul, chemotherapy can also cause damage to normal cells and tissues. These damaged normal cells and tissues often contribute to serious adverse reactions that reduce quality of life of cancer survivors. Anthracyclines – a family of antibiotics that acts as DNA intercalator - are among the most effective chemotherapeutic agents ever developed.
As other chemotherapies, anthracyclines have serious long-term consequences on healthspan because of multi-organ toxicities. Currently, there is no cure for this irreversible detriment of anthracyclines as identification of potential interventions is limited by the lack of understanding of the mechanisms mediating anthracyclines-induced toxicity.
The hypothesis of this research is that anthracyclines induce detrimental cellular senescence in various tissues, and that targeting senescent cells can reduce chemotherapy-driven dysfunctions.
The main goal of this project is to identify and validate pharmacological anti-senescence interventions that interfere with the onset and progression of accelerated aging phenotypes promoted by anthracyclines.
‘A novel liquid biopsy assay to select cancer patients for hypoxia-modifying treatment’
Dr Anika Nagelkerke is an assistant professor of cell biology, biochemistry & molecular biology and oncology. Her research project is entitled ‘A novel liquid biopsy assay to select cancer patients for hypoxia-modifying treatment’, and aims to improve existing methods. Many solid tumours have an oxygen deficiency (hypoxia), making their progression more aggressive. Although being able to determine the degree of hypoxia before starting treatment could be enormously beneficial, the current methods for doing this are not ideal. The aim of this project is therefore to explore alternative, clinically viable methods.
The project itself involves studying whether the extracellular vesicles (EVs) excreted by cells could serve as an indicator for the degree of hypoxia in the tumour. These vesicles are excreted by all body cells, including tumour cells. It would appear that the vesicles reflect the cells from which they originate, making them a frontrunner in terms of new biomarkers for cancer. Nagelkerke hopes that her research project will contribute to the KWF mission to stimulate better treatment methods for cancer. Developing a method that can be used to measure tumour hypoxia before, and during, treatment could enable doctors to choose the most suitable treatment option, thereby improving the effectiveness of the treatments currently being used.
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