VUB researchers and start-up Esobiotec pursue affordable cancer immunotherapy

VUB researchers and start-up Esobiotec pursue affordable cancer immunotherapy

World Cancer Day, 4 February

In-patient cell engineering to upgrade immune cells’ capacity to identify and destroy cancer cells is the challenge taken on by the Walloon startup Esobiotec, founded by Jean-Pierre Latere, and two VUB researchers and their teams: Nick Devoogdt from the Medical Imaging department (MIMA) and Karine Breckpot from the the Laboratory for Molecular and Cellular Therapy (LMCT).

The immune system can recognize cancer cells as these express unique proteins (tumor antigens). These antigens serve as an ‘ID’ for T cells, immune cells with their own unique proteins (receptors) that scan the ‘ID’ of cells. This knowledge led to the use of T cells in cancer immunotherapy. Therapy with T cells that were manipulated in the lab to express so-called 'chimeric antigen receptors' or CAR, improved man-made receptors, has proven efficacious in blood cancers. As a result, this CAR-T therapy is extensively being studied across a large number of other cancer types as well.

Alas, this therapy is undeniably expensive, as it requires isolation of T cells from patients’ blood followed by their manipulation in the laboratory. Therefore, Esobiotec and VUB aim to develop cost-effective and off-the-shelf therapeutics that are inspired on this promising cancer immunotherapy. To achieve this goal, technologies developed at ICMI and LMCT will be leveraged to manipulate the cell directly in the blood, without having to isolate them first from the body. This disruptive approach holds the potential to transform the current standard of cell and gene therapies for cancer treatment.

More info

Contact VUB press relations for interviews with Jean-Pierre Latere, Nick Devoogdt en Karine Breckpot.


VUB and cancer research

VUB is an Urban Engaged University that is firmly committed to the fight against cancer through scientific research. Scientists from various fields – medicine, bioengineering, pharmacy, physiotherapy, psychology – work together on an interdisciplinary basis. Fundamental and clinical scientific research into cancer go hand in hand, which is why the UZ Brussel, VUB’s university hospital, is an important partner in research, therapy and care. More awareness about cancer is needed for its prevention and cure, while more awareness about scientific research benefits the search for remedies and patient well-being. VUB is therefore grateful for an initiative such as World Cancer Day on 4 February.

The VUB Foundation helps to secure financial resources for research. With the VUB Yamina Krossa Fund, the VUB Foundation supports breast cancer research and the development of a potential cancer vaccine by Professor Damya Laoui and her team (VUB-VIB). The VUB-UZB Paul De Knop Fund is another initiative, established by the former VUB rector who was diagnosed with melanoma shortly after his mandate ended. During treatment by Prof Bart Neyns and his team at the UZ Brussel, Paul De Knop underwent immunotherapy, a promising immune system-based cell therapy. As a grateful patient, he set up the fund to help more people in need of treatment, quickly and more affordably.

Want to know more? Contact Isabelle Marneffe ([email protected]), director of the VUB Foundation.

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Sicco Wittermans
Sicco Wittermans Woordvoerder en persrelaties Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Sicco Wittermans
Sicco Wittermans Woordvoerder en persrelaties Vrije Universiteit Brussel
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