NWO Impact Explorer for van den Bogaarts research into the early detection of small amounts of dividing cancer cells in blood

Geert van den Bogaart, Professor Dr. Molecular Immunology at the University of Groningen, received an Impact Explorer grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The grant will enable van den Bogaart to validate the potential social impact of his research into the early detection of small amounts of dividing cancer cells in blood. 

The Impact Explorer programme is aimed at exploring the societal value of an unexpected scientific discovery or insight and is a pilot for now. On the basis of its results it will be decided whether the grant will be given a structural form in the future.

Innovative sensitive test to detect small amounts of dividing cancer cells in blood

Van den Bogaart, his colleague Dr. Frans Bianchi and their teams developed a highly sensitive test to detect very small amounts of dividing cancer cells in biological fluids. The new test overcomes certain limitations of current tests, which are technically complex and expensive or lack sensitivity. It has the potential to improve the accuracy of cancer diagnosis and prevent relapse.

Relevant since small amounts of (remaining) dividing cancer cells can form the beginning or recurrence of a tumor

The new test is important because after patients have been treated for cancer, small amounts of cancer cells may escape the treatment and form the beginning or the recurrence of a tumor. This phenomenon is called Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) and has a huge impact on the survival of cancer patients. MRD testing is particularly important in blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, where cancer cells can spread throughout the body through the bloodstream. However, it potentially can also be used to monitor metastases of solid tumors, such as breast cancer or lung cancer, after surgery or chemotherapy.

Next step: assessing effectiveness and feasibility

The research group now aims to assess the effectiveness of the new test and develop a roadmap for its clinical application. Collaborations with academics and industry researchers are planned to obtain the first evidence of feasibility for this test for cancer detection.

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