• Tumor immune suppression
  • Head and Neck cancer tumor microenvironment
  • Immunotherapy

Focus of research

Our Head and neck cancer biology & immunology (HNCBI) research group at the Department of Otolaryngology-head and neck surgery focuses on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and the precancerous lesions from which these cancers arise with the ultimate aim to translate research findings to the clinic and improve diagnosis, treatment and surveillance. The major research themes are

- oncogenesis and genomics
- molecular diagnosis and early detection
- tumor-stroma interaction
- development and evaluation of novel treatments

I conceptualize and lead the tumor immunology research within the Laboratory of Head and neck cancer biology & immunology, which I joined in 2018 as staff member. After obtaining my PhD at the VUmc dept. of Pathology in 2009, I worked as postdoc (2009-2010) and later junior group leader (2013-2018) at the dept. of Medical Oncology (Immunotherapy and Immune monitoring lab) and received postdoctoral training in tumor immunology at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at the Providence Cancer Center in Portland, Oregon (2011-2013) as part of a KWF-funded postdoctoral fellowship. I have (co)authored 40+ manuscripts in the field of tumor immunology.

My research focus is on characterizing the tumor microenvironment of HNSCC and study the interactions between tumor cells and immune cells therein, with the aim to develop novel immunotherapy treatments or optimize current treatment strategies. Being embedded within a molecular biology lab, I aim to comprehend the immunological consequences of head and neck cancer heterogeneity; both from a site perspective (oral cavity, oropharynx, larynx, hypopharynx) as well as from a molecular or etiological perspective (HPV-driven, carcinogen-driven, age-driven). I am involved with immunotherapy clinical studies that run at the department and through translational research on clinical samples aim to find biomarkers or signatures that could predict response (or resistance) to (immuno)therapy.