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13Oct 2020

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Thesis defense Sanne Huijberts: combining against resistance

How can we combine cancer drugs to overcome resistance? PhD student Sanne Huijberts and colleagues achieved promising results for bowel cancer patients for a start. On October 14th she will defend her thesis on research into various combination therapies.

Promotie Sanne Huijberts Nki

Due to abnormalities in the DNA of cancer cells (mutations), specific proteins can become hyperactive, leading to cancer growth. By inhibiting these proteins with targeted drugs, this growth might be prevented. Many of these drugs have been developed in recent years, but the results are disappointing sometimes. The cancer cell can switch to an alternative survival signal, preventing the targeted therapy from being effective. This is called resistance, which may already be present when the treatment starts or may be developed during treatment.  


Combining multiple drugs simultaneously or intermittently might enhance their anticancer effect. Inhibiting the proteins that cause resistance as well, for example, might improve the effectiveness of the treatment. The drug combinations Sanne Huijberts' describes in her thesis focus on overcoming resistance and, in specific, target abnormal BRAF or KRAS proteins. Patients with such proteins often face a poor prognosis and respond poorly to current therapies.

New combination

Huijberts describes promising results achieved in studies among colon cancer patients with an abnormal BRAF protein. In these patients, concomitant treatment with the BRAF inhibitor encorafenib and the EGFR inhibitor cetuximab with or without the MEK inhibitor binimetinib was shown to be safe and effective ( read more here). Recently, this combination was approved for this patient group in the US and Europe.

Practical information about the defense can be found on Utrecht University's website.

Thesis title: Translational research of combined anticancer therapies targeting the MAPK pathway.



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