16 October 2017

Jolanda de Vries, Dept. of Tumor Immunology, theme Cancer development and immune defense has been awarded the 2017 Huibregtsen Prize for her work on natural dendritic cell vaccines. This award is given to a research project that is scientifically innovative and benefits society.

Jolanda de Vries investigates the role of dendritic cells in the defence against various forms of cancer and studies the effectiveness of dendritic cell therapy. Dendritic cells play an important role in immune responses. In response to infection or inflammation, and in response to cancer, dendritic cells undergo a complicated maturation process, after which they ultimately present fragments (proteins) from the pathogens or cancer cells to T cells in the lymph nodes. These are the ‘killer cells’ of the immune system. Due to the priming from the dendritic cells, they are able to recognise and attack cancer cells.

About the prize (in Dutch)
Film about the research (in Dutch)

Vaccine to target cancer cells

From these dendritic cells, de Vries developed a vaccine against cancer. For this purpose, dendritic cells are removed from the patient and taken to the laboratory where they are primed with tumour proteins. These cells are then returned to the patient, causing the T cells to attack the targeted tumour cells. The major benefit of this therapy is that it attacks tumour cells throughout the body with very few side effects, partly because the T cells are natural to the patient’s body.

The only one in the world, entirely on her own

The jury of the Huibregtsen Prize stressed that Jolanda de Vries is currently the only researcher in the world who is carrying out studies based on natural dendritic cell-based vaccines. Remarkably, she has taken her research to patients entirely on her own, without the intervention of the pharmaceutical industry. The fact that the treatment with natural dendritic cell vaccines is provisionally paid for by basic health insurance is also exceptional. These aspects indicate how unique and important this work is.

About the Huibregtsen Prize

Winners of the Huibregtsen Prize receive a bronze sculpture, De Denker, created by Wil van der Laan, and a sum of € 25,000 to be spent on research. Previous winners of the Huibregtsen Prize from Nijmegen were professors Bart Jacobs (2012), Rutger Engels (2011) and Theo Rasing (2008).
Every year the prize is awarded as part of the Avond van Wetenschap & Maatschappij (‘Evening of Science and Society’), an annual event in the Ridderzaal in The Hague that is attended by leaders from science, culture, business, politics, media and sports, and is chaired by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.

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