Dr. Vera Kemp
Oncolytic viruses (OVs) represent a powerful anti-cancer approach as they specifically replicate in, and kill, tumor cells, while leaving normal cells unharmed. Moreover, viral infection triggers virus-directed immune responses, and may stimulate anti-tumor immune responses. Importantly, differences in susceptibility of (heterogenic) tumors causes large variation in response to OV therapy. My research projects center around the determinants of tumor (stroma) responsiveness to oncolytic virotherapy, with a special focus on reovirus. This includes analyses of infectivity, receptor expression, cell death, and immune factors. In parallel, we attempt to generate more potent oncolytic viruses through directed evolution as well as genetic modification. A primary focus lies on difficult-to-treat, aggressive cancer types that urgently need novel treatment strategies: pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, and glioblastoma.
After obtaining my Master’s degree in Infection and Immunity (Utrecht University, 2013), I started my PhD in the Virus and Stem Cell Biology group of prof. Hoeben. These studies focused on the identification of cellular factors that influence reovirus replication and oncolysis, as well as the genetic modification of reovirus to improve its therapeutic potency. After finishing my thesis, I continued as a postdoc at the department of Pathobiology (Utrecht University, faculty of Veterinary Medicine). Still fascinated by virus-host interactions, I explored oncolytic virotherapy in canine cancers and studied molecular aspects of viral pathogenesis in animals. In 2020, I moved back to the research group of prof. Hoeben at the LUMC, where I now continue to work as a postdoc.