The Immunotherapy group of Dr. Leusen received almost 650.000 euro to do research for improvement of antibody therapy for children with high risk neuroblastom. The contract was recently signed by Dr Leusen and Jos Huijbregts, chair of the board of Villa Joep! 

Approximately 12% of all pediatric cancer patients succumb to neuroblastoma, the most common extracranial solid tumor of childhood. The majority of patients is diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma with a mortality of 50%. Neuroblastoma therapy consists of intensive multimodality treatment with severe toxicities. Recurrence rates are high with limited further treatment options. Intensification of conventional therapy has not improved outcome and is even associated with increased toxicity.

In 2015 the antibody dinutuximab (trade name Unituxin), directed against ganglioside GD2, a carbohydrate antigen uniformly expressed on neuroblastoma and neural tissue, was FDA-approved for neuroblastoma treatment. Dinutuximab significantly improved event-free survival in comparison to standard treatment. However, this antibody also causes severe toxicity manifested as spontaneous intense visceral pain and perceived pain in response to light touch (allodynia), evoked by an off-target effect on peripheral nerve fibers.

Within the Immunotherapy group we have generated an improved version of dinutuximab, that will not give these side effects. But also, together with the LTI facility UMAB, we will generate novel antibodies to fight this devastating disease.

Villa Joep! was founded in 2004, to raise money for neuroblastoma research. Joep’s parents founded Villa Joep after losing their little boy at the age of 4.5. This fund has since then turned into a national movement and funding model which is rapidly expanding.

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