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Improving immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer

Project summary

Attacking the outer layer of a pancreatic tumor to make the way for immunotherapy.

In the Netherlands, 3,500 patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer per year. Only 20% of these patients survives for more than 12 months after diagnosis, even when aggressive treatments are applied, because in many cases the disease has already spread by the time it is diagnosed. There is an urgent need of new treatments that have a meaningful impact on the survival and quality of life of these patients.

Immunotherapy is such a new treatment option. The goal of this form of therapy is to activate the immune system of a patient to fight against the tumor. Current forms of immunotherapy appear not to be effective for pancreatic cancer. This is because pancreatic tumors and its metastases build kind of a wall around themselves, which prevents immune cells from reaching the tumor itself. This consortium has developed a strategy to counteract this effect, to make the tumor and potential metastases susceptible for immunotherapy. For another form of cancer, we have successfully developed a novel form of immunotherapy: dendritic cell immunotherapy. In this project, this dendritic cell immunotherapy will be combined with a compound that attacks the walls. We aim to demonstrate that this combination makes dendritic cell immunotherapy effective for treatment of pancreatic cancer in a mouse model.

The optimal order of combination treatment will be determined in a mouse model. Then, the specific effects of the combination treatment on the immune system will be analysed. Subsequently, it will be studied to what extent the walls are broken down. Finally, other potential compounds that can break down the walls will be identified. This is done to study whether even more effective combination therapy would be possible.


When this project is successful, clinical studies with patients will follow.

More detailed information

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Joachim Aerts

Role Erasmus MC:



Project website:

Not available

Funding Agency:

Health Holland