Immunotherapy is a promising cancer treatment in which immune cells from the patients themselves are activated. One such approach is T cell receptor (TCR) therapy, which modifies T cells from the blood to better recognize and eliminate cancer cells. However, identifying the right TCRs is difficult and the required tests are expensive and labor-intensive. Johanna Veldman would like to simplify and improve this process.
After completing her doctoral research at the University of Groningen, Veldman started as a postdoctoral fellow in Daniel Peeper's group in 2021. Her research focuses on better understanding the interaction between T cells and tumor cells to find better treatment strategies.
Veldman says: "In my research, I found a specific group of T cellswithin the tumor that exhibit strong anti-tumor activity. With the Veni grant, I aim to identify the specific TCRs of these T cells in the coming years so we can optimize treatment."
The immune system comprises various cells that that must communicate effectively to control cancer. However, cancer cells employ numerous tricks to evade the immune system, including releasing molecules that influence immune cells. Dijkstra: " We still have limited knowledge about these molecules and how they function. Thanks to this grant, I can start identifying these molecules with the aim of enabling a new form of immunotherapy."
Krijn Dijkstra conducted his doctoral research at the NKI and furthered his studies at the Francis Crick Institute in London. He currently works in Emile Voest's group at NKI, investigating how tumors evade the immune system and how different immune cells and cancer cells communicate with each other.
The Veni grant is a personal scientific subsidy, part of the NWO Talent Programme, targeted at recently graduated researchers. This year, 188 promising researchers from diverse fields of science were awarded Veni funding, with a maximum grant of €280,000. The laureates will use this funding to further develop their own research ideas over the next three years.