Doctoral fellow - Unit for Translational Research in Oncology/The Department of Diagnostic Sciences – UGent - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Principal Investigators: prof. Steven Goossens (PhD)
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is a rare aggressive hematological cancer that is characterized by diffuse infiltration of the bone marrow by malignant T-cell progenitors. They represent 10-15% of the pediatric and 25% of the adult ALL cases. Although initially T-ALL was associated with a high relapse rate, the current prognosis has significantly improved by the introduction of intensified chemotherapy in combination with stem cell transplantation. Modern treatment protocols reach cure rates of 85-90% in children and about 50% in adults. Nonetheless, this coincides with both severe short- and long-term side effects. Additionally, the outcome for primary therapy resistant or relapsed patients remains extremely poor. Therefore, the need for novel targeted therapies that improve the prognosis of high-risk refractory/relapsed T-ALL patients remains very high.
In my research, the focus lies on investigating the microenvironment of T-ALL. We aim to discover a novel treatment approach by identifying and targeting active pathways that become triggered by aberrantly expressed cytokines. We will analyze this in-vitro, as well as in ex-vivo patient-derived xenograft (PDX) cultures and ultimately in an in-vivo PDX setting. Additionally, we will attempt to develop T-ALL PDX models in CD34+ humanized mice to investigate how the normal immune microenvironment influences T-ALL development and - vice versa – how T-ALL development influences the immune system.