New UT research into breast cancer and pancreatic cancer

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KWF honors four projects in which UT researchers are involved. Three projects focus on patients with breast cancer, with two projects focusing on early monitoring of the side effects of chemotherapy and another project focusing on seeing whether tumor tissue remains during surgery. Another project uses advanced tissue culture models to enable the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

Breast cancer side effects:

Chemotherapy is associated with various side effects, which can have a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life, stress and anxiety. Monitoring these side effects is very important. If side effects are reported in a timely manner, action can be taken or the therapy can be adjusted in consultation between the doctor and the patient, for example by reducing the dose or switching to another drug. Early recognition and reporting of side effects can improve quality of life and can be supported by online monitoring. Both UT projects fall under the national Breast Cancer Research Group (BOOG).

Side effects app and FitBit (almost 1.5 million)

Main applicant: Sabine Siesling UT and IKNL
Co-applicants: Sabine Siesling (UT), Stans Drossaert (UT), Agnes Jager (Erasmus University Medical Center); Mark Mulder (Erasmus University Medical Center); Corina van den Hurk (IKNL). Others involved from the UT: Sandra Oude Wesseling, Mathijs van Noordzij, BMS lab. 

One of the two study projects: the SYMPHA trial combines the use of the patient reported side effects app with FitBit. 28 hospitals and 454 metastatic breast cancer patients are participating in the study. Maintaining quality of life is very important for these patients, because they can no longer be cured. Some patients use an app to register side effects at least weekly. If patients exceed certain symptom levels, the app notifies them when to contact their healthcare provider. In this way, it is not the control visit that is leading, but the complaints that the patient experiences. In addition, FitBit measures data, such as sleep patterns and exercise patterns. In addition to the app, the researchers want to know whether a FitBit contributes to the early recognition of side effects. The researchers expect that the use of active symptom monitoring will lead to a better quality of life and better care. In addition, the use of medicines may be more (cost) effective.

Within this project, the UT collaborates with IKNL (Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation), Erasmus MC, Radboud University, Dutch Hospital Data, the Dutch Breast Cancer Association and 23 participating hospitals.

eChemoCoach (almost a million)

Main applicant: Mathijs Hendriks, Northwest Clinics
Co-applicants: Sabine Siesling (UT), Stans Drossaert (UT), Corina van den Hurk (IKNL) 

The Northwest Clinics is investigating whether the eChemoCoach contributes to better online monitoring. The eChemoCoach is a digital tool within the electronic patient file. It provides advice about side effects in the early stages of breast cancer. Patients can log in at any time and report their complaints. They then receive immediate advice without the intervention of a doctor or nurse. Healthcare providers monitor complaints remotely. More than 700 patients from 12 hospitals will participate in the study. The effect of online monitoring answers questions such as: are side effects noticed earlier? Can unnecessary suffering be prevented? Does dose intensity have an effect on quality of life, anxiety and the number of unplanned hospital visits? If the results of the research are positive, the eChemoCoach will be used more widely. 

The eChemoCoach is a project of the Northwest Clinics, in collaboration with IKNL (Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation), University of Twente, ErasmusMC, Dutch Breast Cancer Association and 12 participating hospitals.

Breast cancer operations:

During surgery for breast cancer, the surgeon must operate on the basis of the images that have been taken and sometimes on the basis of markers in the tumor tissue. Surgeons have the problem during surgery that they often cannot see or feel the edges of the tumor properly. As a result, it sometimes appears after the operation that tumor cells are still left behind, and the patient must receive additional treatment.

Handheld scanner for surgeons (1.3 million)

Main applicant: Theo Ruers, AVL/NKI and UT
Co-applicants: Ruud Verdaasdonk (UT)

Researchers from AVL/NKI, together with the University of Twente and Tyndall, will develop a scanner that the surgeon can hold in the hand. With the new device, the researchers want to give surgeons the opportunity to scan the tissue during the operation. They can then intervene immediately if they still see cancer cells on the cut edges. The scanner combines ultrasound and optical spectroscopy, which images both the structure and molecular properties of the tissue. With the KWF grant, they will test the scanner on tissue from breast cancer operations. 

The Handheld scanner is a project of the AVL/NKI in collaboration with the University of Twente and Tyndall. 

Pancreatic cancer:

Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest cancer with a dismal survival rate of 8%. It leads to the death of more than 430,000 patients each year worldwide. Most patients are diagnosed in a late stage at which the tumor is unresectable and effectively untreatable. There are currently no diagnostic tools available to detect this cancer in early stages.

Bioengineered toolbox for early detection of pancreatic tumor

Main applicant: Jai Prakash (UT)
Co-applicant: Dr. Maarten Bijlsma (Amsterdam UMC)

To address this problem, researchers from the University of Twente and Amsterdam University Medical Centre propose to develop three dimensional (3D) engineered models to mimic the early stage of the cancer. Using these in vitro models, they will identify biomarkers which are present in early tumor stage compared to healthy human and late-stage cancer and validate these biomarkers in clinical blood samples. They will not only focus on tumor cells but also on its microenvironment. They will culture advanced pancreatic organoids cultures in a custom-made mini-well system and examine the secreted factors together with the help of their industrial partner Nordic Biosciences, Denmark. Researchers aim to identify pancreatic tumor-specific early-stage biomarkers which are specific and sensitive and can be translated to the clinic. When developed, this will become affordable diagnostics which can be implemented for early detection of pancreatic tumor in the high-risk population, leading to earliest curative treatments. 

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