And the winner is …. Laurel Schunselaar

Published on 2019-09-17

Written by Paul Janssen Futurelab

Laurel Schunselaar (LUMC) is the winner of the Paul Janssen Futurelab Nomination Letter 2019 for the best clinical proposal entitled ‘A phase Ib dose finding study with aclarubicin in patients with metastasized uveal melanoma.’ The letter will be submitted with the research proposal to ZonMw’s Rational Pharmacotherapy Program (GGG) for a half a million grant.

Since the beginning of this century, aclarubicin has no longer been available for the treatment of cancer patients in Europe. A few years ago the Leiden chemist Sjaak Neefjes discovered the working mechanism of this ‘forgotten’ medicinal product. Aclarubicin is not entirely forgotten. It is still used in China and Japan for the treatment of patients suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The novel insights into the working mechanism and the weak cardiotoxicity of the drug compared to other anthracyclines justify further research on other cancer types. Recently Neefjes decided to produce the compound in India. The aim is to get market approval from the European Medicines Agency.

Schunselaar: “Aclarubicin seems to be a potent treatment for many different cancer types. We are first focusing on tumors for which there are few or no available treatments, like uveal melanoma and mesothelioma.”

Paul Janssen Futurelab

From left: Ellen Kapiteijn, AG Jochemsen, Gre Luyten, Laurel Schunselaar, Sjaak Neefjes and Frank Speetjens

“It [the course] was very intensive but a lot of fun. The online and on-campus parts all fit well with my experience. My mentor during the extended course had a lot of experience with setting up phase 1 studies and it was very useful to brainstorm with her”, said Schunselaar about her participation in the Clinical Development course.

Laurel’s proposal was selected out of 4 submitted proposals. During her PhD research she developed a method to isolate tumor cells from fluid in the lungs of patients with mesothelioma. With this system, she was able to test various chemotherapy drugs including aclarubicin on cultured patient cancer cells to define personalized treatments for these patients. In these tests the results with the drug aclarubicin were promising. Schunselaar is currently coordinating several trials to provide clinical data about aclarubicin treatment in patients. A multi-center study with AML patients from LUMC, Erasmus MC, Amsterdam UMC and UMCG will start next year. The ZonMw grant will be used to conduct a clinical study with aclarubicin and patients with metastasized uveal melanoma.
The Paul Janssen Nomination Letter has been awarded since 2017 to excellent academic researchers in the Netherlands who participated in the Clinical Development course. In the final part of the course, the on-campus extended course, candidates buckle down and work out their own idea for a clinical trial. In collaboration with the Centre for Human Drug Development (CHDR), Paul Janssen Futurelab provides experienced clinical experts to mentor candidates on how to translate an idea for a novel intervention into a solid clinical trial application.
The 3-part course focusses on Question Based Clinical Development (QBCD). The QBCD method facilitates translational and clinical researchers when defining the most optimal developmental pathway for a novel medical intervention. The QBCD method takes both scientific and financial considerations into account. These principles can be applied to all types of medical interventions such as drugs, medical devices and medical nutrition.
The online part of the new edition of this course starts October 7th 2019. Candidates can apply for the course (as long as there are slots available) via the website www.pauljanssenfuturelab.eu Read more about this grant Read more about the course Clinical Development