Sjoerd H. van der Burg, PhD • 2022 SITC Election

Sjoerd H. van der Burg, PhD
Leiden University Medical Center

van der BurgBiography

Dr. van der Burg, is a full professor in the Immunotherapy of solid tumors with emphasis on immunomonitoring at the department of Medical Oncology of the Leiden University Medical Center. He leads the group of Experimental Cancer Immunology and Therapy which performs fundamental, translational and clinical studies focusing on those factors of host-tumor interactions that determine the success and failure in immune control of cancer. He is also appointed as senior investigator at the Oncode Institute, which is an independent Dutch institute dedicated to bring research discoveries into the clinic faster. His laboratory has made several seminal contributions to our understanding of the impact of the tumor immune microenvironment, more specifically tumor-specific helper T cells, CD8+ T cells and regulatory T cells as well as myeloid cells on clinical outcome to (immune) therapy. Dr. van der Burg strives to advance immunotherapy through a profound understanding of disease specifics in relation to the patient’s treatment response. He has co-developed the synthetic long peptide vaccine concept and studied its optimal use in different patient groups, guided by comprehensive immunomonitoring, and leading to its successful clinical application in premalignant stages and during chemotherapy and/or checkpoint inhibition. His strong focus on clinical translation of fundamental findings is reflected by the 16 published investigator initiated clinical trials in therapeutic cancer vaccination, adoptive T cell transfer and immune modulatory antibodies, he (co)supervised and performed by his group, as well as the 5 currently running/starting trials.

Dr. van der Burg is actively involved in the national and international immunotherapy societies. He was the co-chair of the steering committee and treasurer of the Dutch Tumor Immunology Working Group (2011-2017), he served as a member of the Steering Committee of the AACR-Cancer Immunology Working Group (2012-2014), as a member of the Landon Foundation-AACR Innovator Award for Cancer Immunology Research Committee (2014-2015), and of the Advisory Board of the Association for Immunotherapy of Cancer (C-IMT) (2016-present). He was the co-founder (2005), Chair (2010, 2012, 2013) and member of the steering committee of the CIMT Immunoguiding Program (2005-present). In order to aid SITC to communicate and advance the knowledge on tumor immunology and immunotherapy, he worked as Associate editor (2012-2019), Deputy editor (2019-2020) and as Section editor (basic tumor immunology, 2020-present) for JITC.

SITC Election Platform Statement

What are the two or three critical issues facing the field of cancer immunotherapy?

The idea that one can name  “the two or three” critical issues facing the field of cancer immunotherapy does not do justice to current literature, as there are numerous hurdles to be addressed for this form of cancer treatment to reach its full potential. Here, I indicated just three that are important to my own work, and without doubt will also form a problem for that of many others: 

  1. The difficulty to build on the current immunotherapeutic successes due to the complexity of identifying and targeting primary and acquired extrinsic immune resistance mechanisms found within and across cancer types. There is a high need to identify the most common among these escape mechanisms and devise specific targeted strategies.
  2. To capitalize on the direct tumor-rejecting role of tumor-infiltrating leukocyte populations while alleviating the immune suppression by their tumor-promoting counterparts. Tumor-rejecting leukocytes increasingly are reported to sustain T-cell based immunotherapy and may represent a cold – and thus T-cell resistant - tumors’ Achilles’ heel when properly mobilized.
  3. The availability of clinically approved immunotherapeutics to be used as co-treatment for investigator-initiated studies with innovative new therapeutics targeting diverse immune resistance mechanisms.

What is your vision for SITC?

SITC is to boost innovation by stimulating cross-pollination between immunologists, biologists, physicians and those actively involved in immunotherapy, who work within  different fields of diseases, in particular cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmunity and transplantation, where we all deal with similar immunological mechanisms and problems.

SITC is to strengthen its efforts to support clinical translation of immunotherapeutic approaches by mentoring and inspiring the next generation of fundamental, translational and clinical scientists via programs that allow these young scientists to take advantage of the vast expertise on the translation of cancer immunology and immunotherapy from the bench to bedside and back, that is present in SITC.