Research focus

My translation research focusses on integrating multimodal information of patients and their tumor to identify driver genetic alterations, genes and biological pathways that are relevant for the pathophysiological behaviour and treatment response of tumors. My theoretical background in Mathematics and Computer Science and Cognitive Science and Engineering enables me to develop algorithms, pipe-lines, and dedicated software for the analysis and interpretation of ‘big-data’. Although my focus is on bioinformatics/machine learning/computational biology, I have strong collaborations with molecular biologist at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) to translate relevant findings and hypotheses to functional experiments in the lab.

As a medical oncologist, I aim to translate my findings to clinical impact by setting up (pre-)clinical studies. Providing physicians with tools to make better decisions on the optimal treatment strategy for an individual patient diagnosed with cancer will be a major goal.

In 2015, inspired by the immunotherapy revolution in oncology, I turned my attention to the anticancer immune response. I currently holds key positions in several national and international projects, serving as principal investigator (PI) in the UMCG-NKI POINTING project to develop a multi-faceted signature to predict immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) response, PI in the Infrastructure for Rare Cancers in the Netherlands (FORCE) project, PI in the UMCG-NKI project to study the mechanistic and therapeutic targeting of immune evasion in triple-negative breast cancer, PI in the Netherlands Facility for Cancer-immune Analysis (N-CIA) study, team member of the UMCG’s IMI Immune-Image project, and member of the Predicting Response to Immunotherapy for Melanoma with Gut Microbiome and Metabolomics (PRIMM) consortium, which studies the interplay between the gut microbiome, immune system, and response to ICIs. Furthermore, I founded and fund the OncoLifeS-Immunotherapy biobank containing biosamples obtained from patients treated with ICIs.

Figure below is taken from Bhattacharya A, Bense RD, Urzúa-Traslaviña CG, de Vries EGE, van Vugt MATM, Fehrmann RSN*. Transcriptional effects of copy number alterations in a large set of human cancers. Nat Commun 2020; 11:715.