Therapy response prediction for cancer patients – VitroScan

28 November 2018


Ovarian Cancer

Interview with Willemijn Vader – Managing Director VitroScan

Personalised medicine is aimed for the treatment of patients with all kind of diseases. The term is broad and refers to numerous approaches to improve the effect of therapy for the individual patient. Instead of applying a standard of care approach with the best average result for all patients with the same disease. We asked Willemijn Vader, Managing Director of VitroScan, about her expertise on personalised medicine in relation to oncology. VitroScan uses a technology platform to develop predictive diagnostics for cancer patients.

“It is generally known that cancer patients are treated with drugs or therapies that do not always have the effect that is hoped for.” The problem is that the effect for the individual patient often cannot be predicted, the variation in sensitivity of the tumour for treatment between patients is high. Some patients respond well, others not, and on average there is a moderate positive effect for the whole group. For example, cancer patients are often offered therapy of which is known that about half of the patients benefit. This means that 50% of the patients only suffer from the side effects, and in the meantime they miss out on the opportunity to get alternative effective treatment. “Knowing this, it is an understatement to say that there is a high need for improving the strategy to treat cancer patients.”

In addition, with regard to the increasing number of effective drugs that will become available for patients over the next years, it is important to be able to optimise selection of drugs per patient.

New drugs will enter the market in parallel, and are often tested against one ‘golden standard’ drug combination. ‘’This makes it difficult to compare the value of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ drugs.’’ Developing predictive tests will be an important factor to improve treatment results using all treatment options that are available.

VitroScan tests available drugs on 3D tumour cultures from cancer patients before the treatment is started. ‘’We take the cells from the tumour and put on the drugs to see if the tumour is sensitive. By using our automated high content imaging platform, we can test many drugs simultaneously and analyse the effect of the drugs in depth.’’ We are currently performing studies in collaboration with Dutch hospitals to prove that we can predict the effect of the drug for the patient that we test.

The challenges for VitroScan include the coordination of ongoing trials which cost a lot of time and effort. Although the engagement of the clinical partners is remarkable, resulting in great collaborations! In addition, the route to implement innovative diagnostics in the regular hospital care with regard to validation and integration in the health care system is not very well established.

‘’Diagnostics are going to be crucial to improve the treatment of cancer patients.’’ There are many companies and researchers working on various approaches to get there, but Willemijn believes that the ’competition’ is beneficial and move the field ahead.

Improved therapy response prediction will improve the treatment of cancer patients, and VitroScan wants to be a part of that. The people from VitroScan believe that in five years they have been able to set up a validated platform and lab to provide certified and predictive testing. ‘’Currently we are looking for partners and employees to join us in this and to improve the quality of life of the patients together.’’


Get in touch with VitroScan if you believe you could be their next partner or employee via info@vitroscan.nl or +31 71 3322 870.