This website uses cookies

This websites contains videos from YouTube. This company uses cookies (third party cookies). If you do not want them to use these cookies, you can indicate so here. However, this does mean that you will not be able to watch videos on this website. We also make use of our own cookies in order to improve our website. We don't share our data with other parties. Which cookies are involved?

This website uses cookies to enable video and to improve the user experience. If you do not want to accept these cookies, indicate so here. Which cookies are involved?

Ga direct naar de inhoud, het hoofdmenu, het servicemenu of het zoekveld.


12Jun 2020

Back to News overview

Cancer research meets corona

Cancer researcher Pia Kvistborg and her team are exploiting their research method in a creative way at the moment: they're searching for the exact part of the coronavirus our immune cells can recognize to start fighting it. An exciting quest with hopefully equally exciting results. In this series we closely follow Pia and her colleagues


June 12: Time to breath and get creative

It might not look like it, but researcher Anastasia is waiting. Sort of. Over the last few weeks she and her colleagues have been working tremendously hard on investigating immunity against the coronavirus. Now that they have submitted their article about the results to a scientific journal, her body and brain can rest a bit. "While we're waiting for the journal's response, we finally have some time to breath, get creative ideas for follow-up projects and pick up other experiments again", says Anastasia. "I'm very grateful for getting the opportunity to work on this corona project. Trying to help solve the corona problem fulfills me. I feel useful." Was she, at any time, hesitant about working with a virus that takes other people's lives? "Sure, I had concerns. But I was very certain I wanted to do this and we took strict safety measures. Going to the supermarket would have been much riskier."

Anastasia Gangaev Project Pia Corona Update 12 Juni 2020


May 25: First results show that experiment works

"The first results of our experiment show that our approach works!" says researcher Pia Kvistborg. Her team is using their cancer research technology to try to unravel which exact parts of the coronavirus our immune cells (T cells) can recognize. "It is still too early to say anything about the results, though. We need to carefully analyze them first." It's amazing Pia and her team can still see straight, since their curiosity keeps them in the lab from 7 am until midnight these days. "It's very intense but the team spirit is amazing. During the experiment it's nerve-racking to wait and see whether the green dots appear on our screen, representing immune cells bound to a specific part of the virus. It's so exciting!" Stay tuned for updates.









May 14

Yes! The Kvistborg corona/cancer team is ready to go. They'll be searching for the exact part of the coronavirus our immune cells can recognize to start fighting it. "We just got back the first analysis of our 25 Italian corona patient blood samples", says cancer researcher Anastasia Gangaev. "You see: infected body cells present virus particles on specific molecules on their surface. This allows immune cells to recognize them and jump into action. Different people have different sets of recognition molecules in their toolbox, though. This first analysis shows us the type of recognition molecules for each patient. Now we can mimic the presentation of virus particles in the lab, and investigate which part of the coronavirus the patients' immune cells can recognize. The great thing is: these so-called T cells will have remembered that from the moment they were still inside the patient and met the virus for the first time. Within the next couple of day's we'll have the first preliminary results!" Want to know what they discover? Stay tuned for updates.

Pia Deel 2 Ontvangst Resultaten



May 4

Cancer researcher Pia Kvistborg and her team have decided they want to contribute to filling the knowledge gaps that keep us from effectively fighting the coronavirus. "We have developed this quite unique technology to study human immune cells and we thought… maybe we could provide a small piece of the puzzle. The thing is: it is still largely unknown which exact part of the virus is recognized by immune cells called T cells. And this recognition is exactly what we specialize in for cancer cells. Unraveling how immune cells recognize the coronavirus could be of huge importance for the development of vaccines and understanding immunity."

When presented with Pia's idea, Italian colleague Andrea Cossarizza immediately promised to collect patient blood samples for her in Italy. Leiden University temporarily opened Huib Ovaa's lab so they could make the short protein fragments Pia and her group need for the experiments. The patient samples have made their (adventurous) way to the Netherlands Cancer Institute, and the protein fragments have also arrived. "Once we get back the results of a first analysis of which recognition tools the immune cells of these patients use, we're ready to go. We are very excited to get started! We'll be working in a special lab with extra safety measures over the next weeks." Stay tuned for updates!

*BD Biosciences provided reagents for these experiment for free.

Steven Ketelaars Phd Student And Pia In The Lab IMG 0667


Share this page