Biography: Sanne performed her PhD in the lab of Professor Louis Vermeulen in the Amsterdam UMC, the Netherlands, where she specifically focused on the spread of oncogenic mutants through the intestinal epithelium during the earliest events of tumour initiation. She and her team discovered a completely new mechanism in the mammalian intestine, supercompetition, by which Apc-mutant cells actively disadvantage their normal neighbours and initiate tumour development. Moreover, she demonstrated that this unequal competition can be counteracted using lithium, thereby preventing the development of premalignant adenomas (van Neerven et al. Nature 2021). These findings have been translated into a clinical pilot trial that assesses the chemoprevention effect of lithium in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis, carrying germline mutations in the APC gene (Linssen et al. BMC Gastroenterology 2022).
Currently, Sanne is a Research Associate at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, in the lab of Professor Benjamin Simons. Here, she continues her work on cell competition in the intestine using novel lineage tracing models and innovative single-cell approaches for which she has received both an NWO Rubicon and an EMBO postdoctoral fellowship. As the role of cell competition in cancer is getting more pronounced (van Neerven & Vermeulen, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 2022), understanding and modulating the competition between normal and mutant cells could aid the development of novel prevention strategies, particularly for patients with heritable cancer syndromes.