Maarten van der Weijden

Update NKI Center for Cell Therapy

Internal medicine oncologist Tom Seijkens, medical oncologist Sebastian Klobuch, cell therapy specialist nurse Marjolein Delfos and cell therapy specialist nurse in training Fieke Haak will update you on developments within the NKI Center for Cell Therapy, which was made possible thanks to donations to the AVL Foundation.


Fieke Haak: “TIL treatment has now become part of regular care for patients with melanoma at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. We are currently training the teams of the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen and the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, so that they can also provide the TIL treatment in the future. This creates greater distribution within the Netherlands in the required capacity for this specific care. We have also expanded our own team and trained additional nurses to become cell therapy nurses. We also try to be more visible as a cell therapy team to inspire new employees.”

Marjolein Delfos continues: “In the study phase we treated between 5 and 10 patients per year. We were able to expand this to 35 patients in 2023. It is expected that we will treat 50 patients with TIL next year. This includes Radboudumc and Erasmus, we expect to be able to treat more than 30 patients at the NKI.”

“To expand the team of cell therapy nurses, we have trained a number of oncology nurses in the internal department. To this end, we have developed e-learning, a side-effects game and a scenario training together with the AVL Academy, based on practical situations. And then learning on the job followed, where a nurse who is new to cell therapy is trained by an experienced cell therapy nurse.

Tom Seijkens adds: “The nice thing is that people find cell therapy a bit exciting at first, but as we continue with the training, the enthusiasm actually increases by the hour. It is nice to see that the content of the training is very good and that it also has an encouraging effect. After the training, everyone is confident at the bedside.”

unpredictable character
Marjolein: “As a cell therapy nurse you must be familiar with the unpredictable nature of these treatments. The patient needs fairly intensive and complex care and you have to be able to anticipate this well. In addition, everything must be properly registered. ”

Fieke: “In certain parts of the treatment, as a nurse you are one-on-one with the patient and then you bear a lot of responsibility. Based on what was previously described in study documentation, you know somewhat what to expect. But in practice you have not yet experienced everything. This makes it a very challenging position! We now have a group of nurses who really like that and are very enthusiastic.”

Tom: “I also notice this when colleagues from other centers come for the training, and the members of our own team talk proudly about their work. It's fantastic that they like to share that enthusiasm. Ultimately, it is about helping more people with different forms of cell therapy. The growth that we were able to achieve in 2023 was a really important step.”

“We are also regularly asked internationally whether oncologists can join us because they are curious about how we organize that care in the NKI. We now really have an exemplary role with which we can help colleagues to set up TIL treatment and other forms of cell therapy in their own country. It is good that people look over every now and then, but we do not want to become a 'dedicated' training center for colleagues. Patient care comes first and we want to be able to do much more in this regard.”

Sebastian Klobuch: “The rapid growth in the number of patients for the TIL treatment was a challenge this year. We really had a shortage of nurses. The number of patients we wanted to treat was not immediately feasible because there were too few specialized nurses. Providing high-quality care is always our priority. Several centers are interested in providing the TIL treatment, but it will not be at the same level overnight. That just takes quite a long time.”

“The intention is that two more centers will now be trained so that you can distribute the required capacity for TIL treatment among several hospitals. This creates more room for us to gain experience with new forms of cell therapy in addition to TIL for melanoma. As an innovative center, it is a priority for us that we can continue to develop and that there remains room for new treatments.”

Sebastian: “We have now also treated a considerable number of patients with genetically modified immune cells in a study context in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies. From our Center for Cell Therapy, we have developed a new way to generate genetically modified immune cells and we are ready to apply this treatment to patients. We also receive research subsidies for this, but the raw materials we need for this must meet very specific requirements and suppliers charge enormous amounts for this. In addition to negotiating with these suppliers, we also look at what we can academically develop ourselves in the laboratories of the various centers in the Netherlands.

A lot of financing is still needed for that piece of innovation, it simply does not fit into the current financing flows.”

You can donate to cancer research in the NKI through this page



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