Radiologist Ritse Mann is developing a ‘smart MRI’ for faster breast cancer diagnostics. In his research project, he is working on the development of an algorithm that can detect breast abnormalities quickly during the MRI scan. If no abnormalities are detected, the MRI procedure can end. This means that the average examination time for women will be a maximum of 3 minutes instead of the current 20 minutes; the scan will only take this long for a select group of women. This saves a lot of time and opens up the possibility of examining larger patient groups, making MRI a potential method for breast cancer screening, the early detection of the condition.
Fundamental researcher Reuven Agami wants to use his research to expose vulnerabilities of cancer cells which may lead to new therapies. Last year he showed that melanoma cells develop a deficiency of the crucial nutrient tryptophan in their move to circumvent the immune system. A healthy cell would immediately halt protein synthesis, but melanoma cells continue their production in full force. However, this process is very sloppy and leads to aberrant proteins. Thankfully the immune system can detect them, which may pave the way for a new type of immune therapy. Agami: “We see this kind of sloppy protein production in approximately 60% of all tumors; not just in melanomas but also in other cancer types. But not in the remaining 40%, nor in healthy cells. Why is that?” This is what he intends to find out through his Dutch Cancer Society grant. “Once we know how this works, we can take control and maybe develop a new kind of immunotherapy that makes use of this cancer-induced sloppiness.”