Updated on 20 July 2012
Cancer research in the Netherlands
Asbestos-related cancer: In June 2010, the Erasmus Medical Centre (MC) in the Netherlands introduced a treatment method which they hoped would beat a deadly cancer that was linked to asbestos. Researchers tested the vaccine, which infuses a patient's own dendritic cells with antigen from the patient's tumor, on 10 patients and found that it induced an immune T-cell response against mesothelioma tumors.
This is the first time dendritic cell-based immunotherapy has been tested in patients with mesothelioma, which typically occurs in the lungs but can arise at other body sites. Asbestos has been banned in developed countries for decades, but the incidence of mesothelioma is expected to continue to increase until 2020. The median survival after mesothelioma diagnosis is about 12 months. Standard chemotherapy treatment improves survival by about three months.
The major problem in mesothelioma is that the immunosuppressive environment caused by the tumor will negatively influence the therapy. The researchers are now working on a method to lower this immunosuppressive environment. The aim is to increase survival in patients with mesothelioma and eventually vaccinate persons who have been in contact with asbestos to prevent them from getting asbestos-related diseases.
Brain tumor: Dr Tom Wurdinger of the Neuro-oncology Research Group (NRG) of VUmc Cancer Center in Amsterdam discovered a certain type of enzyme that is responsible for the return of malign brain tumor after surgery and radiation. According to Dr Wurdinger, if this specific enzyme is slowed down by a chemical substance and becomes "inactive" this can confuse the cancer cell. The cell would not be able to find its way and will split up without repairing the damaged DNA. This way the cell basically blows itself up. This potentially could be an effective supplementary treatment method for treating this very aggressive and deadly type of cancer.
The most common and aggressive type of brain tumor is glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). The standard treatment for GBM is generally surgery, followed by a combination of radiation and chemotherapy, causing the DNA of the remaining cancer cells to be damaged. The DNA of the cancer cell determines what the cell should do, for example, double in size causing the tumor to grow. Since the cancer cells have the capacity of repairing the damaged DNA, for now the treatment is only partially effective, and eventually the tumor will always keep growing.