Maarten van der Weijden

NKI research into less chemotherapy for breast cancer supported by Maarten van der Weijden Foundation

Who could have missed the news: Maarten van der Weijden completed the Elfstedentriathlon. He swam 200km, biked 200km, and walked 200km to raise money for the Maarten van der Weijden Foundation, which will contribute to 11 cancer research projects selected by the Medical Advicory Board. Amongst them is the study by dr. Marleen Kok and Hugo Horlings into triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) at the NKI.

Twenty percent of breast cancer patients have triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a heterogeneous condition consisting of aggressive subgroups as well as a more favorable outcome. Patients with a more favorable TNBC prognosis tend to develop tumors that contain more immune cells (tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, TIL). Despite the many international studies that link a high TIL count to a favorable prognosis, we don’t currently determine TIL count in other TNBC patients, as pathologists require additional training.

Marleen Kok: “We want to use the funding from the Maarten van der Weijden Foundation to use digital pathology and Artificial Intelligence to introduce TIL measurements in all hospitals throughout the Netherlands. Then we would like to use the budget to conduct a clinical trial for patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and a high TIL count (>=75%).

These patients currently receive standard treatment consisting of five months of chemotherapy using three or four types of chemo drugs.

For patients with high TIL counts in their tumors, this is a significant overtreatment because we know that the survival rates of TNBC patients with high TIL counts are excellent, even without chemotherapy. In this clinical trial, we would like to investigate whether TNBC patients with high TIL counts can safely forgo chemotherapy, and whether this will ensure a higher quality of life.” This study will require €600,000.

Marleen introduced her research to the crowds right before the start of the triathlon, and even swam along for a bit. She and Hugo raised €2,000 through these efforts. But we need more funding to be able to fully finance all selected studies. We hope to receive a wonderful donation from the Maarten van der Weijden Foundation, and if you would like to contribute to this goal yourself, please click here


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