Manipulated alarm cells used in the battle against cancer (MUMC+ news)

Tumour immunologist Carl Figdor appointed TEFAF Oncology Chair

On the 17th of March Professor Carl Figdor accepted the TEFAF Oncology Chair, a special professorship for scientists with an exceptional reputation in the field of cancer research.  The professor of tumour immunology also gave his inaugural lecture entitled ‘Making of the immune system: a glimpse into the future’. Figdor is well renowned in the scientific community for his pioneering research into stimulating the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The Endowed Chair at Maastricht UMC+/Maastricht University is sponsored by the Board of the fine art fair TEFAF, which  takes place this year from 11 – 20 March in the Maastricht Exhibition & Conference Centre, Maastricht.

A specific cell in the human immune system that can offer a solution in the struggle against cancer. Prof. Carl Figdor of the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen is conducting research in this field. Dendritic cells play a central role in his scientific studies in the field of tumour immunology.  In fact, Figdor has developed a therapy based on this particular type of cell that can be used in the future to treat cancer. During his one-year appointment as Endowed Professor in Maastricht, he will be sharing his knowledge with doctors, researchers and students there.

Manipulation of alarm cells

In the human body, dendritic cells act as a type of alarm cell for the immune system. 
If a virus, bacteria or fungus enters the body, the specialised cells recognise these as infiltrators. The dendritic cells warn the immune system, which in turn makes sure that the potential pathogens (disease-producing agents) are removed. Cancer cells, however, can camouflage themselves from dendritic cells and in doing so avoid the destructive effect of the immune system. Figdor and his research team have discovered a remarkable way of manipulating dendritic cells in such a way that they do raise the alarm in the presence of tumour cells. The manipulated alarm cells used in research have since also been shown to be successful when used in patients. Further information about Figdor’s research is available on the website at


As part of the art fair TEFAF, the Maastricht UMC+/Maastricht University research institute GROW appoints a special annual Chair known as the TEFAF Oncology Chair. Chair holders are linked to the Maastricht research institute for one year during which they regularly give masterclasses and lectures. The programme prior to Figdor’s inauguration consisted of other immunology-related lectures. Lecturers included Prof. Douglas Hannahan, who held the TEFAF Oncology Chair last year.

Prof. Carl Figdor is head of the department of tumour immunology at Radboud UMC in Nijmegen. He has won various prizes and awards including the Spinoza Prize (2006), the Eijkman Medal (2000) and an ERC Advanced Grant (2010). Figdor is also a Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion, a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Academia Europaea.

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