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Meet the 28 butterflies

The 28 butterfly doctoral students.

All 28 international Butterfly PhDs have been appointed and come from geographically diverse backgrounds. You can read more about them below.


Research area 1 – Brain Tumors



Julie Wines

Nationality: Belgium

Group: Kool Group


About Julie

I am originally from Belgium but achieved a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Mainz in Germany. During my Bachelor’s degree, I focused on elucidating the cellular functions of a protein that potentially serves as a prognostic biomarker in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. For my Master’s thesis, I investigated the role of post-translational modifications in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. I have always had a great passion for oncology research and therefore decided to pursue a PhD in this field.

My Project: R-loops in pediatric brain tumors: from cause to cure?

I am focused on elucidating the role of R-loops within the context of pediatric brain tumors. R-loops are DNA:RNA hybrid structures that under physiological conditions serve as dynamic recruitment platforms to facilitate various essential functions within the cell. Persistence and accumulation of R-loops as a result of deregulated formation or resolution, however, pose a threat to genomic integrity and can potentially trigger cascades that transform a healthy cell into a cancer cell. So far, little is known about the origin and regulation of R-loops in brain tumors.



Lucia Bracesco

Nationality: Italy

Group: Artegiani Group


About Lucia 

I am a molecular biologist from Italy, driven by a deep-rooted curiosity towards the mechanisms of life. I started my academic journey at the University of Padova, Italy, where I studied Molecular Biology, and then mastered in Paris, France, at the European Master of Genetics. During my time in Paris, I worked on leukemia at the Gustave Roussy Institute, fostering my interest in the
field of cancer biology and motivating me to continue working in this field for my PhD.

My Project: Elucidating the role of BAP1 in fibrolamellar carcinoma

Fibrolamellar Carcinoma (FLC) is a rare but deadly liver cancer mostly occurring in children or young adults, with limited treatment options. Our aim is to improve the molecular understanding of this disease. Recently, BAP1 mutations have been associated with this cancer type but their contribution to tumorigenesis is still unclear. To further investigate this mechanism, I will use state-of-the-art organoid cultures. These techniques will help us to study how BAP1 mutations can influence cell identity in different liver cell types and how this is linked to cancer development.



 Antonio Cobos

 Nationality: Spain

 Group: Hulleman Group



About Antonio 

I am a biochemist from Malaga with a masters in Translational Investigation by the University of Navarra, where I came in contact with pediatric oncology and brain tumors. While I worked there, I came across the Máxima Butterfly Program.

My Project: CAR-T cell therapy for the treatment of pediatric ependymoma and diffuse-midline glioma (DMG)

Pediatric brain tumors, such as DMG or ependymas, most specifically posterior fossa type A (PFA) ependymomas are still an unmet clinical need. Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy has recently become a very promising immunotherapeutic tool in oncology, which could prove to be a very auspicious approach to this type of cancer, that is what we are focusing on.



Doga Yagiz Yurddas

Nationality: Turkey

Group: Tissing Group


About Doga 

I am a medical doctor from Turkey with a big passion for research. I have done research in neuro-science, as well as conducted a clinical audit in the ENT department of my faculty hospital during my studies. I have completed my medical training in Budapest, Hungary. I have acquired invaluable experience as an international student, during my time working in healthcare in a foreign country. This experience taught me the universal human struggle with illness and the art of connecting with those in need of medical attention.

My Project: Improving imaging of the hypothalamus in children with craniopharyngioma

Improving imaging techniques for childhood craniopharyngioma in order to better predict
the hypothalamic outcome: This project aims to develop improved imaging techniques for visualization of the hypothalamus using 7 Tesla MRI and multi-nuclear metabolic imaging. It can help us to have a better understanding of the hypothalamic region, and predict the extent of damage in patients with craniopharyngiomas, pre- and postoperatively.



Akshaya Lakshmi Krishnamoorthy

Nationality: India

Group: Van Vuurden Group


About Akshaya 

I’m Akshaya, originally from India with a biotechnology degree. My journey began in Hong Kong during my bachelor’s thesis, where I discovered my passion for clinical biomedical science.
I continued with a master’s degree at KU Leuven Belgium, focusing on immunology and oncology. These academic adventures have ultimately brought me here to the PMC where I’m excited to continue my career in immuno-oncology.

My Project: Crossing Barriers For Local Immune Modulation In High Grade Gliomas

The effectiveness of immunotherapy in high grade glioma (HGG) is hampered by its strong immunosuppressive nature. Our goal is to reprogram the epigenetic and functional profiles
of TAMs by instigating trained immunity using nanobiologics, essentially creating an innate immune memory. These nanobiologics will be administered via different drug delivery platforms in clinically relevant animal models, aiming to establish and leverage trained immunity as a potential treatment strategy for HGG.


Research area 2 – Hematology Malignancies 



Céline Debou

Nationality: Belgium

Group: den Boer Group


About Céline

My name is Céline, I am 23 years old and I recently graduated from Ghent University (Belgium) with a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, specializing in oncology. I chose the Butterfly program at the Princess Máxima Center because of the international approach and the opportunity to work in research directly linked to clinical practice.

My Project: ALL, leukemic niche and cell based immunotherapy

My PhD project focusses on the effect of the leukemic niche on immunotherapy in B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL). We will investigate and characterize the interplay of leukemic cells, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and immune cells using techniques such as spectral flow cytometry, flow sorting and live imaging. Additionally, we will model and manipulate the efficacy of immunotherapy in ex vivo multidimensional cultures, representing the complex interplay in the leukemic niche. Ultimately, we aim to help optimize immunotherapy for BCP-ALL.



Bexultan Kazybay

Nationality: Kazakhstan

Group: Heidenreich/Vormoor Group


About Bexultan 

I am a future scientist from Kazakhstan. During my master’s I did an internship on acute lymphoblastic leukemia at Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, UK. I also worked at the National Center for Biotechnology, Kazakhstan on mesenchymal stem cells. Having experience in both fields, I decided to start my PhD at the Princess Máxima Center in the Heidenreich/Vormoor lab to investigate how leukemic cells interact with stromal cells to survive in the bone marrow.

My Project: The osteochondral niche: how acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells reshape skeletal stem cell differentiation to create a supportive and protective niche?

Leukemic blasts communicate with neighboring cells to reprogram their microenvironment and survive chemotherapy. Hence, targeting the tumor-supportive microenvironment holds the potential of increasing therapy efficacy. To understand cell-cell communication dynamics we will use single cell RNA sequencing of leukemic cells and FACS sorted skeletal progenitor cells from diagnostic bone marrow samples. Cellular communication pathways will then be probed in our co-cultures of patient-derived ALL cells grown in direct contact with human iPSC-derived MSC. To further decipher the interplay of leukemic blasts and the osteochondral niche, we will develop a 3D co-culture system using miniature bone/cartilage particles. Spatial transcriptomics and confocal microscopy will be applied to investigate in a unique setting the mechanisms that govern leukemogenesis in the osteochondral niche.



Miguel Martins

Nationality: Portugal

Group: Pieters Group



About Miguel

Miguel is a Clinical Fellow in Pediatric Oncology in Lisbon, Portugal. Graduating from Medical School in 2011 he pursued a career in Child Health with a keen interest in Oncology/Hematology. Collaborative work has been a thriving part of his career. He serves as Vice-Chair for the Young European Academy of Pediatrics and coordinated his National Trainee Group from the Portuguese Society of Pediatrics. Miguel has also been active in translational research training having completed the Harvard Medical School – PT Clinical Scholars Research Training program. On another note he is passionate about medical volunteering and has been involved in several humanitarian projects for child healthcare. He has worked in Madagascar, Angola and Sao Tome e Principe islands.

My Project: Therapeutic drug monitoring and developing new therapies for acute lymphoblastic leukemia based upon genetic abnormalities, immunotherapeutic targets

The focus of the project is to improve outcomes of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) by the development of better targeted and personalized therapies. The project will study the clinical relevance of molecular genetic abnormalities, therapy response measurements by
minimal residual disease monitoring, toxicity during treatment, long-term outcome and event-free survival after chemotherapy, stem cell transplant and newly-implemented antibody-based
immunotherapy and cellular therapy. By analyzing these data our group intends to develop more precise therapies for specific genetic and immunophenotypic risk groups of childhood ALL.



Eva Sofie Baum

Nationality: Germany

Group: van Leeuwen  Group


About Eva

I am a molecular biologist from Germany with a master’s degree in Biomolecular Engineering from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany. I was first introduced to oncology in my bachelors and started my studies with a broad interest in molecular targeted therapies, antibody engineering and immunotherapies. During my master’s I collaborated on a project on nanobody-targeted photodynamic therapy which I continued in the group of S. Oliveira after I graduated. During this time I decided that I want to proceed my studies in translational research in oncology.

My Project: Metabolic targeting of T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia to identify more effective, less toxic treatment options

Acute T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematologic malignancy in both children and young adults. In spite of a fairly favorable prognosis at diagnosis, relapsed T-ALL poses an ongoing treatment challenge as well as an unmet clinical need. Therefore, the project will focus on defining metabolic dependencies in T-ALL. The advantage of metabolic therapies over classical chemotherapy is the absence of long-term genotoxicity, which is particularly important for (young) children.


Research area 3 – Solid Tumors



Rugile Januskeviciute

Nationality: Lithuania

Group: Drost Group


About Rugile

• I am from Vilnius, Lithuania.
• BSc Biomedical Sciences at the University of Manchester and MSc Cancer Biology at Imperial College London and London Institute of Medical Sciences.
• In my Masters I explored the effects of ageing and gender on colorectal cancer development and tested the effect of novel AKT/PI3K pathway inhibitors on ovarian cancer organoid models.
• Completed industrial placement year on epigenetics and deep learning at GlaxoSmithKline.

My Project: Characterization of the immune microenvironment of rhabdomyosarcoma for the development of immunotherapy

• Pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a soft tissue
malignancy of mesenchymal origin.
• The cellular differentiation states underlying RMS, its immune microenvironment, and how these relate to patient outcomes remains unknown.
• Using single-cell omics approached to characterize the differentiation stages and immune landscape of RMS.
• Functional validation of potential therapeutic targets using patient-derived RMS organoid models and immune cell co-culture models.



Camilla Perosa

Nationality: Italy

Group:  Looijenga  Group


About Camilla 

I’m Camilla and I come from a region in the North-East of Italy called Friuli-Venezia Giulia, specifically from San Daniele, a city that is famous for the ham. I carried on my university studies in Bologna. Indeed, here I graduated first in my bachelor in Biotechnology and then in my master in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. For my 6-months master internship I decided to moved to London at “The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)” where I started to deal with the oncology field. I was in the cell division group led by Professor Jonathon Pines and my project focused on Cyclin B1.

My Project: A Normal and aberrant germ cell development

My project is focus on platin resistance in Germ Cells Tumors (GCTs). Indeed, most of the GCTs are curable with platin-based chemotherapy combinations. However, resistance to platin emerges in a small but clinically meaningful number of patients and, apart from high-dose chemotherapy, no alternative treatment options are available. Through the generation of different cell lines models using genetic engineering, I investigate the molecular and genetic pathogenesis of the disease in order to identify the driving mechanisms of the resistance.



Beatrice Piotto

Nationality: Italy

Group: Molenaar Group


About Beatrice 

I am a biotechnologist from Italy with a master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology. My interest in oncology started during my bachelor’s studies and increased while carrying out my bachelor’s thesis in the field of pediatric oncology, in particular studying the anaplastic large cell lymphoma. I kept my interest by continuing my studies in the oncology field and by performing my master’s thesis at the Lausanne branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, in the Irving lab. My project focused on gene-engineering approaches for improving the efficacy and safety of T-cell immunotherapy for solid tumors.

My Project: A game of hide and seek: targeting neuroblastoma’s escape from immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is of growing interest in the treatment of pediatric solid cancers. In the field of neuroblastoma tumors, patient outcome has been improved by the implementation of Dinutuximab, an anti-GD2 antibody, into the standard of care. However, in circa 50% of patients, neuroblastoma tumors evade the current immunotherapy with Dinutuximab, leading to poor survival rates in most of these patients. We will use advanced techniques, such as high-throughput drug screening and CRISPR screening of neuroblastoma for anti-GD2 resistance, in order to identify novel combination strategies.



Fenja Fahrig

Nationality: Germany

Group: Molenaar Group


About Fenja 

I am a biomedical scientist from Germany with a master’s degree in Molecular Life Science. My interest for pediatric cancers developed during my masters’s studies, especially during an internship at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. There I worked in the Arsenian-Henriksson
group that researched Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma tumors with a focus on MYC(N) and neural differentiation as a strategy for treatment. I continued my work there as a research assistant before I came to the Prinses Máxima Center.

My Project: Targeting aberrant ATRX to identify new treatment options for Neuroblastoma

My focus lies on ATRX aberrant neuroblastoma (NB), a high-risk subgroup of NB with poor overall survival. In NB, different aberrations in the ATRX gene, which codes for a
chromatin remodeler, have been identified. Multi-exon deletions are the most common alterations and frequently lead to in-frame fusions (IFFs).The group has previously shown that these NB tumors show a dependency for the IFFs. Additionally, the different aberrations show opposing gene expression patterns and induce different phenotypes. We want to consider these differences when investigating therapeutic interventions for ATRX aberrant NB. My work will include organoid technology and high throughput compound screening, and make use of siRNA-mediated interference.



Hannah Kunstek

Nationality: Croatia

Group: Nierkens Group


About Hannah 

I am a molecular biologist from Croatia with a master’s degree in Molecular Microbiology. During my studies in Austria and France, I was introduced to immunology and was enamored with it ever since. Now that I joined Máxima, I have the opportunity to expand my field of interest and dive more into the world of oncology.

My Project: Immune profiling in pediatric cancer

A complete immune profile of patients could be a step forward to improving available treatment, but also patients life quality and expectancy. Therefore, my project focuses on understanding the function of cellular subsets and characterizing all the variables that contribute to successful
immune reconstitution upon stem cell transplantation.



Aleksandra Letunovska

Nationality: Latvian

Group: Tytgat Group



About Aleksandra 

I was born and raised in Latvia, but moved to the UK independently from my family at the age of 15, where I have completed most of my education. I have a master’s degree in “Cancer and molecular and cellular biology” and worked as a Biomedical Scientists in translational research with the UK UMBRELLA study group at the University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UCL GOS ICH). The UMBRELLA study focuses on improving treatment for children with renal cancers.

My Project: Liquid biopsies in neuroblastoma, focus on cell free DNA and messenger RNA

Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common extracranial pediatric tumor. Currently, the 3-year overall-survival for high-risk patients is only 40%. NB is extremely heterogenous with copy number alterations, chromoplexy and chromothripsis. This highlights the urgent need for standardized molecular testing to improve diagnosis, treatment and monitoring. To do so, a liquid biopsy techniques used in this project. It is a blood-based, minimally invasive technique; allows for detection of circulating tumor-derived DNA (ctDNA) and mRNA.



Amirhossein Masroor

Nationality: Iran

Group: van den Heuvel-Eibrink Group


About Amirhossein 

I am an engineer from Iran. I did my bachelor’s and master’s in chemical engineering at Shiraz University. I was introduced to systems biology during my bachelor’s and then bioinformatics in my master’s. Previously, I have used mathematical modeling, scientific programming, and optimization techniques to analyze biological systems. I find genomics and systems oncology quite interesting, because they allow us to unravel the complex mechanism underlying cancer.

My Project: Genetic susceptibility and prevention of CP-induced hearing loss in childhood cancer patients

Cisplatin is one of the most essential chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of a specific subset of pediatric solid tumors and brain tumors. Despite it’s efficacy, Cisplatin induced hearing loss occurs in 50% of treated children. There has been evidence of genetic association with
this adverse effect. In my project, I will investigate the association between mitochondrial DNA variants, DNA methylation, and CIHL development in children. Furthermore, I will test an otoprotective agent (sodium thiosulfate) on cancer cell lines treated with cisplatin to investigate it’s efficacy.



Mianyong Ding

Nationality: China

Group:van den Heuvel-Eibrink/Janssens Group


About Mianyong 

I am from Jiaxing, a city near Shanghai, China, with a master’s degree in Bioinformatics. I possess a diverse academic background spanning environmental sciences, biology, bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence. After several years of exploration, I’ve confirmed my interest in applying data science and AI to the field of life sciences. Prior to my current journey in the Netherlands, I lived in China, Ireland, and Belgium for several years.

My Project: AI to enhance RT planning for children with renal tumors

About 20% of the pediatric renal tumor patients require post-operative flank Radio Therapy (RT). This radiotherapy recruits an image-guided technique, requiring the precise delineation of organs/structures at risk and the postoperative tumor target volume from patients’ images. Manual delineation of these structures is conventionally time-consuming as well as significant delineation variations. I will develop a deep learning-based model to delineate these structures from CT/MRI images based on patient data from PMC. Subsequently, the robustness of these models will be validated in a multicenter setting using federated learning.



Leonor de Sousa Teles

Nationality: Portugal

Group: van Noesel Group


About Leonor 

I am a medical doctor from Portugal with a big interest in medical imaging and technology. In parallel with medical school I completed two courses on computer science, AI and data science applied to healthcare and data science applied to healthcare. After graduation I was awarded a scholarship to attend the International Space University’s Space Studies Program 2022, where I developed a project on monoclonal antibody crystallization in microgravity for applications in oncological disease. With a passion for multidisciplinary and innovative work, I am always looking for a challenge at the intersection of medicine and technology.

My Project: Targeting the SSR2A receptor with [68]Ga-SATO in NBL patients

Targeting the SSTR2Aargeting the SSTR2A receptor with [6868Ga]-SAGa]-SATTO in neuroblastoma patients. This project aims to compare the effectiveness of [6868Ga]-SAGa]-SATTO with the standard imaging modalities, assess the diagnostic accuracy and safety of this
new imaging radio-pharmaceutical, quantify the radiation absorbed dose and understand the patient burden of the new scan protocol.

Diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals for neuroblastoma. This project aims to develop immuno-PET tracers to visualize GD2 and B7-H3 expression in vivo, hopefully aiding assessment, of treatment sensitivity and personalization of therapy in the future.


Alice Larsson

Nationality: Sweden

Group: Hoeijmakers/Vermeij Group


About Alice 

I was born in the countryside of southwestern Sweden but have for the past two years lived in Uppsala, where I studied at the master’s program in molecular medicine. During my studies, I was introduced to a wide range of topics and found oncology and reproductive medicine to be particularly interesting. I am therefore very excited for the opportunity to continue to learn more about oncological research during my PhD.

My Project: The use of organotypic tissue slices for assessing prevention against treatment-induced side-effects via nutritional preconditioning interventions

The focus of my project will be on the use of nutritional preconditioning interventions as a means to prevent side effects of cancer treatment in pediatric patients. Previous research has demonstrated that dietary restriction triggers a temporary suppression of growth with a simultaneous upregulation of resilience and defense mechanisms. Activating such response prior to DNA damaging cancer treatments might selectively protect healthy tissues against treatment-induced side effects. However, since previous research has primarily focused on adult patients, the possibilities of using dietary restriction strategies in pediatric patients remain largely unexplored.


Research area 4 – Quality of Life



Marnik Paeps

Nationality: Belgium

Group: Grootenhuis Group


About Marnik 

I am a Belgian Psychologist with a clinical background. I wrote my thesis on quality of life for patients with cystic fibrosis. This triggered my interest in the medical side of psychology. I worked with people and adolescents with drug addiction. Here we tried to increase patients’ quality of life despite their difficulties in life.

My Project: Psychosocial risk screening across the trajectory of childhood cancer treatment

The PAT is a questionnaire that is conducted worldwide to measure familial psychosocial risk in pediatric health. The level of risk can be an indicator for treatment recommendations. We will try to implement the PAT in a more efficient way and investigate how we can use this data to provide better care for the patients and their parents.



Franziska Oberhammer

Nationality: Italy

Group: Kuiper Group


About Franziska 

Originally, I come from a small alpine village where there are almost more cows than people. I later moved to Heidelberg for my studies, where I completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree in molecular biotechnology. During my bachelor’s studies I became passionate about oncology and became further involved with it through internships at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). To broaden my horizon, I also performed internships in bioinformatics at the BioQuant and Sorbonne University in Paris, as well as an internship in biophysical chemistry at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. During my master thesis at the DKFZ, I bioinformatically characterized KRAS-mediated epigenetic dysregulation in pancreatic cell lines.

My Project: Tumor-based molecular signatures of childhood cancer predisposition

Cancer predisposition syndromes (CPS) can be challenging to recognize due to phenotypic variability, germline mosaicism or undiscovered genes. My project focuses on identifying tumor-based molecular signatures of childhood CPSs using transcriptome and methylome profiling data. Specifically, I will investigate pediatric tumor types lacking additional syndromic features.
With these molecular signatures we aim to pinpoint patients at higher risk of harboring a CPS. This knowledge could enable us to develop targeted screening approaches, allowing detection of tumors at an earlier stage. Ultimately, this may translate into reduced treatment requirements and decreased toxicity for affected individuals, improving their overall quality of life.



Jessica Beamish

Nationality: Ireland

Group: Partanen Group


About Jessica

Clinical neuropsychologist from Australia
• Clinical experience in the two largest tertiary hospitals in Victoria working with children and adults.
• Ready to combine my love for clinical work, research and travel as a PhD student at the

My Project: Machine learning approaches to improve prediction of neuropsychological outcome in pediatric cancer groups

• Up to 50% of pediatric cancer survivors experience neuropsychological impairments.
• However identifying patients who will decline is challenging in a clinical setting, especially of very young children.
• Using new methods (e.g.,machine learning), we aim to develop a prediction model for an individual child over time, which includes medical, individual, and psychosocial factors.


Research area 5 – New Technologies



Patrycja Fryzik

Nationality: Poland

Group: Belderbos Group


About Patrycja 

I was born in Warsaw, Poland, where I also grew up and studied. For university, I moved to the UK, where I completed an integrated Master’s degree in Medical Sciences at the University of Leeds, with a thesis on bacterial protein structures and their related activity. There, I also expanded my knowledge and interest in cancer biology, which led me towards wanting to continue my education in leukemic research and applying for the Butterfly project in the Princess Maxima Center.

My Project: Clonal evolution and therapeutic vulnerability of UBTF-mutated MDS/AML

My project will focus on the investigation into the clonal evolution of pediatric myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which is a pre-cancerous condition characterized by the abnormal hematopoietic stem cell function and high risk of disease progression to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Currently, the primary available treatment is chemotherapy and an allogeneic stem cell transplantation, which carries significant risks. My project will utilize single-cell RNA sequencing and invitro cultures, to gain insight into molecular mechanisms and pathways underlying MDS, its therapeutic vulnerability, as well as its progress to AML.



Elisabetta Liuzzi

Nationality: Italy

Group: Clevers Group


About Elisabetta

Motivated aspirant researcher with a strong passion for biology and all the questions concerning it. In particular I’m very interested in the biomedical field and in learning the mechanisms behind several diseases, with a special focus on cancer. I successfully collaborated on different research projects working both individually and collaboratively. I love working in a multi-disciplinary environment and for this reason I’m always looking for new professional experiences to improve my skills and knowledge.

My Project: The immunomodulation of Ewing Sarcoma

My project will focus on the development of a new in-vitro model. Cells derived from the tumor microenvironment (TME) will be co-cultured with Ewing Sarcoma patient-derived organoids. In this way we can obtain the realization of a representative model of both the TME and the tumor itself. This will help us to better understand the exploitation mechanism that Ewing Sarcoma uses to escape from the immune system and allow development of new immune-target therapies. Additionally, we hope to discover specific cancer associated antigens (CAAs) that could be used to engineer correspondent CAA chimeric antigen receptors on T cells derived patient (CAR-T cell therapy). These new potential treatments could be tested on our co-cultured Ewing Sarcoma model, allowing us to confirm our hypothesis.



Roula Farag

Nationality: Canada

Group: Kemmeren Group


About Roula

I moved from Canada where I did my master’s degree in Medical Genetics.
My master’s research focused on analyzing the transcriptome of uveal melanoma tumors to identify the effect of driver gene mutations on disease progression. After my Master’s, I completed an internship at Deep Genomics to identify genetic targets for RNA therapies. I then got the opportunity to work as Scientific Business Analyst at Amgen to help scientists capture their data effectively for antibody discovery pipelines in cancer treatments.

My Project: Untangling somatic structural variation in pediatric cancer

Structural variants are known to drive cancer initiation and progression and are important for diagnostic purposes in at least 30% of cancers. Osteosarcoma is an example of an aggressive malignancy that occurs in children and is characterized by high genomic structural complexity.
Long-read sequencing presents advantages for the detection of complex structural variants. This project will investigate the complexity of structural variants in solid tumors and the impact of long-read sequencing to improve our understanding of structural variation in pediatric cancers.



Elizaveta Kulaeva

Nationality: Russia

Group: van Boxtel Group


About Elizaveta 

I am a self-taught bioinformatician from Russia with a master’s degree in Genetics.
Last year I did an internship at MDC Berlin devoted to multimodal single-cell data integration.
My undergraduate and master’s studies were focused on leukemia, and I decided to continue research in this field during the PhD.

My Project: Tracking the origin of childhood cancer

Although aging is the biggest risk factor for getting cancer, children can also develop cancer.
In fact, the incidence of some cancers is higher in children compared to young adolescents. We aim to address this paradox by pinpointing the rate-limiting steps underlying the
genesis of childhood leukemia and lymphoma. To achieve this aim, we have two objectives:
1. Identify the processes that contribute to the development of childhood cancer by in-depth mutation analyses.
2. Pinpoint the clonal origin of childhood leukemia and lymphoma during the development of the hematopoietic system by retrospective lineage tracing.



Martina Jovancheva

Nationality: North Macedonia

Group: van Heesch Group


About Martina

I originally come from North Macedonia. I have finished my 4-year integrated master’s degree in Cell Biology at University College London (UCL) in the UK. I started off my journey studying BSc Biomedical Sciences at UCL. During these studies, I got really interested in cancer biology, which is why I decided to instead continue with an MSc degree in cell biology. The fascinating findings of my master’s project made me eager to furthermore pursue cancer research and ultimately led me here to this institute, where through the Butterfly program I have joined the lab of Sebastiaan van Heesch, where we are focused on better understanding and manipulating microproteins in the fight against childhood cancer.

My Project: Functional characterization of microproteins in pediatric cancers

My PhD project focuses on investigating microproteins within the context of neuroblastoma, a devastating pediatric cancer. These tiny, newly discovered proteins challenge our understanding of the human proteome complexity and offer potential insights into cancer. We aim to uncover the functional role of these microproteins in neuroblastoma, by employing cutting-edge technologies like RNA-seq. and Ribo seq. Ultimately, our research seeks to develop targeted therapeutic strategies for neuroblastoma, by harnessing the unique properties of microproteins.



Uddeshya Pandey

Nationality: India

Group: Rios Group


About Uddeshya 

I am a Computational Biologist with a background in multidisciplinary research and a BSMS in life sciences from IISER-T, India. I apply my knowledge of complex data-analysis and machine learning to contribute in the advancement in biomedical and health intelligence research. My master’s research focused on “Cancer metabolomics”. We developed “Quick” analysis methods to decipher lipid signatures in high dimensional data from Mass Spectrometry. With objectives of identifying the potential biomarkers and understanding disease mechanisms. I joined the Princess Máxima Center with the goal of working side by side with clinicians and teams with diverse skillsets, all contributing in the direction of curing child cancer.

My Project: Advancing cellular immunotherapies for Diffuse Midline Glioma using BEHAV3D, a multi-omics 3D image-based platform

To develop robust methodologies for 3D image analysis of cellular dynamics and characterization of behavioral heterogeneity of immunotherapies. Employing Live 3D imaging technologies coupled with “Edge computing” to track the mode of action of cellular immunotherapies. With integrated transcriptomic profiling we ought to identify the previously underlying molecular pathways that can be targeted to improve the effectiveness of T-cell therapies, especially in the context of Diffuse Midline Glioma (DMG) and other tumor subtypes. The lab aims to develop technologies to link the T cells behavior to omics for targeted Immunotherapies therapies against liquid and solid tumors.