LUMC signs cooperation agreement immune therapy against cancer

8 June 2016• PRESSRELEASE

Over the next three years the LUMC will receive 2.5 million euro from Bellicum Pharmaceuticals. These funds will be used to develop new immune therapies against cancer. Initially the research will focus on ovarian cancer.

Last week the LUMC signed a cooperation agreement with Bellicum Pharmaceuticals. Any new immune therapy leads the LUMC may find within the term of this agreement in the next three years may be used commercially by the company. This is a continuation of an existing partnership.

Cell characteristics

Eierstok“We are now looking for new targets for metastasised ovarian cancer”, according to Dr. Mirjam Heemskerk of the department of Hematology of the LUMC. She and her colleagues hope to find characteristics specific to ovarian cells. It is the intention to use these characteristics to adapt the immune cells (T cells) of patients with ovarian cancer in the laboratory to the extent that they only attack ovarian cells.

Other strategy

“This cooperation enables us to use the expertise we have gained with treating leukemia for other types of tumour”, according to Heemskerk. “At the moment a lot of research is done all over the world into immune therapy. Much research is aimed at the characteristics of tumour cells, but we consciously opt for a different strategy. We search for molecular characteristics not specific to a tumour, but to an entire organ. The immune cells we subsequently make, serve to destroy all cells of that organ.”

Advanced stages of cancer

An advantage of the approach of the LUMC is that these organ characteristics are the same for all patients so you can provide the same therapy for all patients. “A disadvantage is that you can only apply this immune therapy to organs you remove completely when cancer has been detected in them. That is often the case in an advanced stage of cancer in among others the ovary, thyroid gland and prostate. We therefore first concentrate on the ovary, but this strategy may also be used for other types of tumour.” 

Cancer Pathogenesis and Therapy is one of the seven medical research profiles of the LUMC.

Please also read the communique in English on the website of Bellicum Pharmaceuticals.

Prof. Wim Fibbe, Guillaine de Blecourt, Annemarie Moseley (COO Bellicum), dr. Mirjam Heemskerk

Stay informed on the latest news of the Leiden University Medical Center, and sign up for our biweekly newsletter or subscribe to our LUMC Magazine.