Developing better treatment for kidney cancer patients

Meet associate professor Iben Lyskjær

“My goal is to make a positive impact on both patients and the health care system, by providing more accurate and timely intervention. I think this would be a game-changer and spare patients from unnecessary side effects and increase chances of survival.”

Iben Lyskjær is on a mission to improve the lives of kidney cancer patients in Denmark and abroad. Kidney cancer is a serious disease that affects more than 700 people every year in Denmark, and many of them are diagnosed at an advanced stage or relapse after surgery for initially localized disease.

Iben Lyskjær’s research is focused on finding better ways to identify and treat these high-risk patients, by looking at the signals from the cancer cells and their surrounding environment.

“I am fascinated by how the tumor interacts with its micro-environment, and how this can influence the patient’s outcome and response to treatment. I believe that by understanding these interactions, we can personalize the treatment and optimize the use of resources,” she says.

Tumor analysis at different levels

Currently Iben Lyskjær is searching for new biomarkers that can predict whether a patient will respond to immunotherapy, a type of treatment that boosts the immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is promising but not effective for everyone, so it is crucial to find out who can benefit from it and who cannot.

By examining the kidney cancer nodules in detail, Iben Lyskjær hopes to discover new clues that will guide them in this direction.

“In our project, we are using cutting-edge technologies to analyze the tumor samples at different levels, such as DNA, RNA, and protein. We are also looking at the immune cells that infiltrate the tumor, and how they communicate with each other and with the cancer cells.

Making a difference for patients

In the long term, Iben Lyskjær wants to develop a comprehensive and reliable risk stratification system for kidney cancer patients, that will enable doctors to tailor the treatment and follow-up for each individual patient and improve their quality of life and chances of survival.

Iben Lyskjær’s interest in cancer research started during her studies, when she chose to focus on this field. She worked on analyzing samples from colorectal cancer patients using circulating tumor DNA-based analysis – a technique that used blood samples to detect cancer DNA.

Eventually she expanded her work to other forms of cancer before starting her own group with kidney cancer in focus.

“I was drawn to kidney cancer, because it is an under-researched field, and there is still a lot of room for improvement. I want to take part in changing this situation and bringing new and better treatment options for the patients.