Joost P J J Hegmans

Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands

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Publications (46)195.96 Total impact

  • Joost Pjj Hegmans, Joachim Gjv Aerts
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    ABSTRACT: We have to strengthen our 'chess-playing skills' when using immunotherapeutic approaches in cancer treatment: know the cancerous opponent, study its evolution and have an eye for its weaknesses. Besides tumor cells, other pieces on the board are stromal cells, endothelial cells and different immune cells. Some of these immune cells, like helper and cytotoxic T cells, natural killer (T) cells and mature dendritic cells are of help, others like regulatory T cells and myeloid-derived suppressor cells belong to the opponent, while macrophages and neutrophils can belong to both. A personalized approach, by selecting the optimal treatment from the myriad of possibilities based on biomarker findings, is essential to attack that particular cancer at that moment. We have to adapt the strategy to the changing positions created by the opponent. Using all these skills, we might control cancer growth in the future.
    Current Opinion in Pharmacology 07/2014; 17C:17-21. · 5.44 Impact Factor
  • Lysanne A Lievense, Joost P J J Hegmans, Joachim G J V Aerts
    The Lancet Oncology 01/2014; 15(1):e1. · 25.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The tumor micro-environment and especially the different macrophage phenotypes appear to be of great influence on the behavior of multiple tumor types. M1 skewed macrophages possess anti-tumoral capacities, while the M2 polarized macrophages have pro-tumoral capacities. We analyzed if the macrophage count and the M2 to total macrophage ratio is a discriminative marker for outcome after surgery in malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) and studied the prognostic value of these immunological cells.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(9):e106742. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    Joost Pjj Hegmans, Joachim Gjv Aerts
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    ABSTRACT: Immunotherapy has taken off but has not yet reached its cruising altitude and is certainly far from its final destination. Identifying the unique immunological profile of individual cancer patients will provide critical clues for the design of optimal strategies that rectify tumor-induced immune imbalances.
    Oncoimmunology. 08/2013; 2(8):e25236.
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    ABSTRACT: Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) are a heterogeneous population of immature and progenitor myeloid cells with immunosuppressive activity that are increased in cancer patients. Until now, the characterization of MDSC in humans was very challenging. The aim of this study was to determine the characterization and optimal assessment of MDSC and to investigate their presence and function in blood of advanced-stage NSCLC patients. We determined MDSC and lymphocyte populations in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) samples of 185 treatment-naïve NSCLC patients and 20 healthy controls (HC). NSCLC patients had an increased population of PMN-MDSC compared to HC (p<0.0001). Frequencies of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cells were significantly decreased in NSCLC patients (p<0.0001 and p=0.05). We found that PMN-MDSC were able to suppress T-cell proliferation in vitro. qRT-PCR showed that arginase-1 (Arg-1) mRNA is mainly expressed by MDSC and that the level of Arg-1 in PBMC correlates with the frequency of MDSC in PBMC (Spearman's rho: 0.797). There were significant differences in MDSC and lymphocyte populations between NSCLC patients and HC. We found that MDSC frequencies are stable up to six hours at room temperature after blood was drawn and that cryopreservation leads to a strong decrease of MDSC in PBMC. We show that Arg-1 mRNA expression is a valuable method to determine the levels of MDSC in peripheral blood of cancer patients. This method is therefore a useful alternative for the complex flowcytometric analysis in large multicenter patient studies.
    Lung cancer (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 07/2013; · 3.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) can be abundantly present in numerous cancer types. Under influence of various stimuli in the tumor microenvironment TAMs develop into a tumor-inhibitory (M1) or tumor-promoting (M2) phenotype. Recently, the role of TAMs in tumor biology and their prognostic value in cancer has become a major topic of interest. In this review we will discuss the importance of TAMs in the pathogenesis and clinical outcome of lung cancer and mesothelioma patients. In addition, the potential of TAMs as therapeutic targets will be discussed.
    Lung cancer (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 06/2013; 80(3):256–262. · 3.14 Impact Factor
  • Joachim G Aerts, Joost P Hegmans
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    ABSTRACT: There is growing evidence that activation of the immune system may be an effective treatment for patients with either small cell lung cancer or non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Immunomodulatory antibodies directed against cytotoxic T cell-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4/CD152) and programmed cell death ligand 1 (PDL1/CD274) showed clinical efficacy in patients with lung cancer. The key immune cells responsible for antitumor activity are the CTLs. The presence of these tumor-directed CTLs, both in number and functionality, is a prerequisite for the immune system to attack cancer cells. Immunomodulatory agents attempt to increase the efficacy of CTL activity. Thus, the limited number of patients who benefit from immunomodulatory antibodies may be caused by either an inadequate number or the impairment of CTL activity by the hostile environment created by the tumor. In this review, we discuss tumor-induced impairment of CTLs and experimental treatments that can stimulate T-cell responses and optimize specific CTL function. We discuss 2 types of immune cells with known suppressive capacity on CTLs that are of pivotal importance in patients with lung cancer: regulatory T cells and myeloid-derived suppressor cells. Cancer Res; 73(8); 1-8. ©2013 AACR.
    Cancer Research 04/2013; · 9.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In 2001, it was postulated that tumour-derived exosomes could be a potent source of tumour-associated antigens (TAA). Since then, much knowledge is gained on their role in tumorigenesis but only very recently tumour-derived exosomes were used in dendritic cell (DC)-based immunotherapy. For this, DCs were cultured ex-vivo and loaded with exosomes derived from immunogenic tumours such as melanoma or glioma and re-administrated to induce anti-tumour responses in primary and metastatic tumour mouse models. In contrast, malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a non-immunogenic tumour and because only a few mesothelioma-specific TAA are known to date, we investigated whether mesothelioma-derived exosomes could be used as antigen source in DC-based immunotherapy. Mouse MM AB1 cells were used to generate tumour lysate and tumour-derived exosomes. Tumour lysate was generated by 5 cycles of freeze-thawing followed by sonication of AB1 cells. Tumour exosomes were collected from the AB1 cell culture supernatant and followed a stepwise ultracentrifugation. Protein quantification and electron microscopy were performed to determine the protein amount and to characterise their morphology. To test whether MM derived exosomes are immunogenic and able to stimulate an anti-tumoral response, BALB/c mice were injected with a lethal dose of AB1 tumour cells at day 0, followed by intraperitoneal injection of a single dose of DCs loaded with tumour exosomes, DCs loaded with tumour lysate, or phosphate buffered saline (PBS), at day 7. Mice which received tumour exosome-loaded DC immunotherapy had an increased median and overall survival compared to mice which received tumour lysate-loaded DC or PBS. In this study, we showed that DC immunotherapy loaded with tumour exosomes derived from non-immunogenic tumours improved survival of tumour bearing mice.
    Journal of extracellular vesicles. 01/2013; 2.
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: During the past decades, numerous efforts have been made to decrease the death rate among lung cancer patients. Nonetheless, the improvement in long-term survival has been limited and lung cancer is still a devastating disease. DISCUSSION: With this article we would like to point out that survival of lung cancer could be strongly improved by controlling two pivotal prognostic factors: stage and treatment. This is corresponding with recent reports that show a decrease in lung cancer mortality by screening programs. In addition, modulation of the patient's immune system by immunotherapy either as monotherapy or combined with conventional cancer treatments offers the prospect of tailoring treatments much more precisely and has also been shown to lead to a better response to treatment and overall survival of non-small cell lung cancer patients. SUMMARY: Since only small improvements in survival can be expected in advanced disease with the use of conventional therapies, more research should be focused on lung cancer screening programs and patient tailored immunotherapy with or without conventional therapies. If these approaches are clinically combined in a standard multidisciplinary policy we might be able to advance the survival of patients with lung cancer.
    BMC Pulmonary Medicine 12/2012; 12(1):77. · 2.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cancer research has devoted most of its energy over the past decades on unraveling the control mechanisms within tumor cells that govern its behavior. From this we know that the onset of cancer is the result of cumulative genetic mutations and epigenetic alterations in tumor cells leading to an unregulated cell cycle, unlimited replicative potential and the possibility for tissue invasion and metastasis. Until recently it was often thought that tumors are more or less undetected or tolerated by the patient's immune system causing the neoplastic cells to divide and spread without resistance. However, it is without any doubt that the tumor environment contains a wide variety of recruited host immune cells. These tumor infiltrating immune cells influence anti-tumor responses in opposing ways and emerges as a critical regulator of tumor growth. Here we provide a summary of the relevant immunological cell types and their complex and dynamic roles within an established tumor microenvironment. For this, we focus on both the systemic compartment as well as the local presence within the tumor microenvironment of late-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), admitting that this multifaceted cellular composition will be different from earlier stages of the disease, between NSCLC patients. Understanding the paradoxical role that the immune system plays in cancer and increasing options for their modulation may alter the odds in favor of a more effective anti-tumor immune response. We predict that the future standard of care of lung cancer will involve patient-tailor-made combination therapies that associate (traditional) chemotherapeutic drugs and biologicals with immune modulating agents and in this way complement the therapeutic armamentarium for this disease.
    BMC Cancer 12/2012; 12(1):580. · 3.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mesothelioma is a rare thoracic malignancy with a dismal prognosis. Current treatment options are scarce and clinical outcomes are rather disappointing. Due to the immunogenic nature of mesothelioma, several studies have investigated immunotherapeutic strategies to improve the prognosis of patients with mesothelioma. In the last decade, progress in knowledge of the modulation of the immune system to attack the tumor has been remarkable, but the optimal strategy for immunotherapy has yet to be unraveled. Because of their potent antigen-presenting capacity, dendritic cells are acknowledged as a promising agent in immunotherapeutic approaches in a number of malignancies. This review gives an update and provides a future perspective in which immunotherapy may improve the outcome of mesothelioma therapy.
    Immunotherapy 10/2012; 4(10):1011-1022. · 2.39 Impact Factor
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    R. Cornelissen, J.G.J.V. Aerts, J.P.J.J. Hegmans
    Mesotheliomas - Synonyms and Definition, Epidemiology, Etiology, Pathogenesis, Cyto-Histopathological Features, Clinic, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis, 02/2012; , ISBN: 978-953-307-845-8
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    ABSTRACT: It is well known that pulmonary tuberculosis is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. We investigated whether a history of pulmonary tuberculosis is an independent risk factor for lung cancer survival in Caucasian patients. The data of the prospective population-based cohort of The Rotterdam Study were used. During a mean follow-up time of 18 years, there were 214 incident cases of pathology-proven lung cancer in a source population of 7983 study participants. History of tuberculosis was assessed at baseline by interviewers using standardized questionnaires. Associations of lung cancer survival with the occurrence of pulmonary tuberculosis were assessed using Cox's proportional hazard regression analysis adjusted for age, gender, pack-years, educational level and tumor stage. A history of tuberculosis was reported in 13 of the 214 subjects with lung cancer. The survival of patients with lung cancer was significantly shorter in subjects with a history of pulmonary tuberculosis (HR=2.36, CI95%: 1.1-4.9), than in subjects without a history of pulmonary tuberculosis with a mean difference of 311 days. The presence of a history of pulmonary tuberculosis may be an important prognostic factor in the survival of lung cancer.
    Lung cancer (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 01/2012; 76(3):452-6. · 3.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Treatment options for malignant mesothelioma are limited, and the results with conventional therapies have been rather disappointing to this date. Chemotherapy is the only evidence-based treatment for mesothelioma patients in good clinical condition, with an increase in median survival of only 2 months. Therefore, there is urgent need for a different approach to battle this malignancy. As chronic inflammation precedes mesothelioma, the immune system plays a key role in the initiation of this type of tumour. Also, many immunological cell types can be found within the tumour at different stages of the disease. However, mesothelioma cells can evade the surveillance capacity of the immune system. They build a protective tumour microenvironment to harness themselves against the immune system's attacks, in which they even abuse immune cells to act against the antitumour immune response. In our opinion, modulating the immune system simultaneously with the targeting of mesothelioma tumour cells might prove to be a superior treatment. However, this strategy is challenging since the tumour microenvironment possesses numerous forms of defence strategies. In this paper, we will discuss the interplay between immunological cells that can either inhibit or stimulate tumour growth and the challenges associated with immunotherapy. We will provide possible strategies and discuss opportunities to overcome these problems.
    Clinical and Developmental Immunology 01/2012; 2012:927240. · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Adoptive therapy with TCR gene-engineered T cells provides an attractive and feasible treatment option for cancer patients. Further development of TCR gene therapy requires the implementation of T-cell target epitopes that prevent "on-target" reactivity towards healthy tissues and at the same time direct a clinically effective response towards tumor tissues. Candidate epitopes that meet these criteria are MAGE-C2(336-344)/HLA-A2 (MC2/A2) and MAGE-A3(243-258)/HLA-DP4 (MA3/DP4). We molecularly characterized TCRαβ genes of an MC2/A2-specific CD8 and MA3/DP4-specific CD4 T-cell clone derived from melanoma patients who responded clinically to MAGE vaccination. We identified MC2/A2 and MA3/DP4-specific TCR-Vα3/Vβ28 and TCR-Vα38/Vβ2 chains and validated these TCRs in vitro upon gene transfer into primary human T cells. The MC2 and MA3 TCR were surface-expressed and mediated CD8 T-cell functions towards melanoma cell lines and CD4 T-cell functions towards dendritic cells, respectively. We intend to start testing these MAGE-specific TCRs in phase I clinical trial.
    Clinical and Developmental Immunology 01/2012; 2012:586314. · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A challenge of cancer therapy is to optimize therapeutical options to individual patients. Cancers with similar histology may show dramatically different responses to therapy, indicating that a refined approach needs to be developed to classify tumors by intrinsic characteristics that may predict response to chemotherapy. Global expression profile-based classification has the potential to identify such tumor-intrinsic subclasses. Pemetrexed effectiveness has been related to the expression of its target thymidylate synthase. The relatively frequent resistance of squamous cell carcinoma to Pemetrexed is correlated with high levels of thymidylate synthase expression. A global expression profile-based molecular classification of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) was performed. Gene expression was used to predict Pemetrexed responsiveness. The distinct molecular attributes of NSCLCs predicted likely to be resistant to Pemetrexed were bioinformatically characterized. We tested if routine immunohistochemical markers can be used to distinguish putative Pemetrexed responders, predicted by gene signatures, from nonresponders. Ninety NSCLCs were divided into six subclasses by gene expression signatures. The relevance of this novel phenotyping was linked to other tumor characteristics. Two of the subclasses correlated to putative Pemetrexed resistance. In addition, the identified signature genes characterizing putative Pemetrexed responsiveness predicted therapeutic benefit in a subset of squamous cell carcinoma. Gene expression signatures can be used to identify NSCLC subgroups and have potential to predict resistance to Pemetrexed therapy. We suggest that a combination of classical pathological markers can be used to identify molecular tumor subclasses associated with predicted Pemetrexed response.
    Journal of thoracic oncology: official publication of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer 11/2011; 7(1):105-14. · 4.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Natural killer (NK) cells play a major role in anti-viral immunity as first line defense and regulation of virus-specific T cell responses. This study aimed to investigate phenotype and function of NK cells in patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and to study the effect of anti-viral therapy. Peripheral blood NK cells from 40 chronic HBV patients were compared to NK cells of 25 healthy controls. The effect of entecavir-induced viral load reduction on NK cell phenotype and function was investigated in 15 chronic HBV patients. NK cell numbers and subset distribution did not differ between HBV patients and normal subjects. In chronic HBV patients, the cytotoxic capacity was retained, but NK cell activation and subsequent IFNγ and TNFα production, especially of the CD56(dim) subset, were strongly hampered. This functional dichotomy was paralleled by an altered activation state, elevated expression of NKG2A, and downregulated expression of CD16 and NKp30, which correlated with serum HBV-DNA load. Anti-viral therapy partially restored NK cell phenotype, as shown by NKG2A downregulation. Moreover, viral replication inhibition improved IFNγ production as a result of an increased ability of CD56(dim) NK cells to become activated de novo. This improved NK cell activation and function which correlated with therapy-induced reduction in serum ALT levels, but not HBV-DNA load. The specific defect in CD56(dim) NK cell activation and the reduced capacity to produce anti-viral and Th1-skewing cytokines may play a role in HBV persistence. Restoration of this NK cell cytokine-producing capacity, as achieved by viral load reduction, could therefore contribute to definite clearance of the virus.
    Journal of Hepatology 02/2011; 54(2):209-18. · 9.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Exosomes are a subtype of vesicles released by cells of both healthy and neoplastic origin. Preclinical studies suggest a role for tumour-derived exosomes in tumour progression, mainly through the transfer of RNA and proteins from tumour cells to other cells. The transfer of RNA and proteins by tumour-derived exosomes seems to mediate stimulation of angiogenesis and suppression of immune cells; in contrast, exosomes from healthy cells of the immune system appear to have anti-tumour characteristics. Characterisation of the RNA or protein profile of tumour-derived exosomes could have diagnostic or prognostic value, for example, in brain tumours. Anti-tumour therapies could be based on exosomes, for example, by blocking the formation of tumour-derived exosomes or having exosomes release therapeutic agents at specific sites. The most advanced application of this is the use of exosomes from dendritic cells in tumour vaccination; the safety of this has been demonstrated in phase I studies.
    Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde 01/2011; 155(51):A3677.
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    ABSTRACT: Suppressive immune cells present in tumour microenvironments are known to augment tumour growth and hamper efficacy of antitumour therapies. The amino-bisphosphonate Zoledronic acid (ZA) is considered as an antitumour agent, as recent studies showed that ZA prolongs disease-free survival in cancer patients. The exact mechanism is a topic of debate; it has been suggested that ZA targets tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs). We investigate the role of ZA on the myeloid differentiation to TAMs in murine mesothelioma in vivo and in vitro. Mice were intraperitoneally inoculated with a lethal dose of mesothelioma tumour cells and treated with ZA to determine the effects on myeloid differentiation and survival. We show that ZA impaired myeloid differentiation. Inhibition of myeloid differentiation led to a reduction in TAMs, but the number of immature myeloid cells with myeloid-derived suppressor cell (MDSC) characteristics was increased. In addition, ZA affects the phenotype of macrophages leading to reduced level of TAM-associated cytokines in the tumour microenvironment. No improvement of survival was observed. We conclude that ZA leads to a reduction in macrophages and impairs polarisation towards an M2 phenotype, but this was associated with an increase in the number of immature myeloid cells, which might diminish the effects of ZA on survival.
    British Journal of Cancer 08/2010; 103(5):629-41. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We previously demonstrated that dendritic cell-based immunotherapy induced protective antitumor immunity with a prolonged survival rate in mice. However, the clinical relevance is still in question. To examine this, we designed a clinical trial using chemotherapy followed by antigen-pulsed dendritic cell vaccination in mesothelioma patients. The aim of this study was to assess the safety and immunological response induced by the administration of tumor lysate-pulsed dendritic cells in patients with mesothelioma. Ten patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma received three vaccinations of clinical-grade autologous dendritic cells intradermally and intravenously at 2-week intervals after chemotherapy. Each vaccine was composed of 50 x 10(6) mature dendritic cells pulsed with autologous tumor lysate and keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) as surrogate marker. Delayed-type hypersensitivity activity to tumor antigens and KLH was assessed, both in vivo and in vitro. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells during the treatment were analyzed for immunological responses. Administration of dendritic cells pulsed with autologous tumor lysate in patients with mesothelioma was safe with moderate fever as the only side effect. There were no grade 3 or 4 toxicities associated with the vaccines or any evidence of autoimmunity. Local accumulations of infiltrating T cells were found at the site of vaccination. The vaccinations induced distinct immunological responses to KLH, both in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, after three vaccinations, cytotoxic activity against autologous tumor cells was detected in a subgroup of patients. This study demonstrated that autologous tumor lysate-pulsed dendritic cell-based therapy is feasible, well-tolerated, and capable of inducing immunological response to tumor cells in mesothelioma patients. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT00280982).
    American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 02/2010; 181(12):1383-90. · 11.04 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

822 Citations
195.96 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2004–2014
    • Erasmus MC
      Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands
  • 2013
    • Amphia Ziekenhui
      Breda, North Brabant, Netherlands
  • 1995–2012
    • Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
      • • Department of Epidemiology
      • • Department of Immunology
      • • Department of Dermatology
      Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands
  • 1999
    • General Hospital of the Air Force, PLA
      Peping, Beijing, China