The Netherlands Cancer Institute's contribution to the international project will be a very important one. "Thanks to Ton Schumacher's work we have developed unique techniques that allow us to monitor whether a patient has immune cells that can recognize cancer cells", says Kok. The other participants of the project are the American MD Anderson Cancer Center and Yale University, and the Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels.
The Netherlands Cancer Institute currently runs a clinical trial studying the effect of immunotherapy in patients with metastatic breast cancer. This weekend at the annual ESMO conference Kok will present the first results of this so-called TONIC-study, which has already included over 60 patients. "The special thing about our strategy is that we start treatment with a short period of 'immune induction' with either low dose chemotherapy or radiation before we start immunotherapy with nivolumab", says Kok. "We investigate whether this works better than immunotherapy alone."
Kok's picture will soon be added to the online gallery of leading, BRCF-funded scientists. Next to Laura van t Veer and Titia de Lange - who are currently living in the United States - she is the third Dutch person in this list. Kok: "The Foundation and does important work by bringing international researchers together and making them work as a group." Kok already knows the American research world from the inside: for 9 months she worked as a postdoc at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, at the cancer immunology research department.