Dekker grant for UMCG research into heart damage caused by immunotherapy in cancer

Cardiologist in training Wouter Meijers, has received a Dekker grant of 245,000 euros from the Heart Foundation. The coming three years Meijers will use this grant investigate how immunotherapy in cancer leads to damage to the heart, and whether it is possible to counteract this damage.

Role of the immune system 

The immune system is the defence system of the body and has an important role in cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Cells of our immune system can recognize and disable cancer cells. Unfortunately, some cancer cells can adapt themselves to escape these immune cells. The immune cell can then no longer attack the cancer cell. 

Immunotherapy successful in cancer 

Some cancer patients are therefore given drugs that restore the ability of immune cells to attack cancer cells. Much progress has been made with this existing immunotherapy. However, in some patients this treatment can lead to inflammation of the heart. This is more common in women than in men. 

Heart damage from immunotherapy 

Meijers will investigate how immunotherapy leads to damage to the heart, and whether it is possible to counteract this damage. He focuses, among other things, on the role of (female) hormones. In addition, heart attacks regularly occur in patients undergoing immunotherapy. Meijers will investigate whet4er it benefits these patients to (temporarily) stop immunotherapy. 

Building bridges between Cardiology and Oncology 

Meijers: “Collaboration is vital and important. Learning from each other's expertise too! Mechanisms that have already been explored in Oncology can actually play a role in the Cardiovascular field too. Hopefully, we can take steps forward through collaborating together.” 

New treatments to prevent heart damage 

Meijers hopes that his research will contribute to new treatments to prevent heart damage.