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Master student Maddalena Centanni awarded with Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize

Former masterstudent Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences Maddalena Centanni will be awarded the 2020 Arenberg Coimbra Prize for Erasmus Students. Centanni spent her six month Erasmus exchange at Uppsala Universiy in Sweden where she looked for ways to improve anti-cancer drug dosing.

Dosing makes a difference

During her stay in Uppsala, Centanni focused on the dosage of the anticancer drug sunitinib. ‘Despite the fact that the drug has been on the market for a while, it remains unclear what the best dosing schedule is,’ tells Centanni. ‘You can give patients higher doses with temporary discontinuations, or a lower daily dose. In addition, there is also a large variability in how patients respond to the drug.’ For this reason, Centanni investigated whether it would be possible to use biomarkers to guide individualised dosing. 


A biomarker is a measurable indicator of some biological state or condition. For example, the antibodies in someone’s blood are a biomarker for a certain infection.

‘We could perhaps make dose adjustments based on someone’s plasma concentration, toxicities or tumour-related receptors in the blood,’ Centanni explains. ‘But no studies yet have compared these biomarkers with one another. In our work, we utilised mathematical models to simulate and verify the benefits and disadvantages of these biomarkers and the different dosing schedules to select the best ones for further clinical development and implementation.’

To learn more about the results of Centanni’s research, see Centanni, M.; Krishnan, S.M. and Friberg, L.E., 2020. Model-based dose individualization of sunitinib in gastrointestinal stromal tumors. American Association for Cancer Research.


The Selection Committee calls Centanni’s work impressive and highly relevant and praises her interdisciplinary approach. Centanni herself feels honoured to have been selected as the winner. ‘Especially because I know that the standard was very high’, she says. ‘It has been exciting to see how our interdisciplinary work has received so much approval.’

One for the team

Centanni believes her time in Sweden has been very beneficial for her development. It provided her with the opportunity to compare the research practices and the different health care systems of the Netherlands and Sweden. ‘Understanding the differences in organisation and customs has made me aware of opportunities to improve current medical practices.’

However, the most important lesson came from her research group itself. Centanni chose the group because of its great research reputation but ended up learning much more than solely about science. ‘After spending six months at the group, I realised that it’s not only the quality of the research that counts, but also the dynamics of the group involved. I felt welcome from the very beginning and my contributions to the research were taken seriously from the very start. I have received much support from all the group members during my research journey. It was in this climate that I was able to fully develop my project and obtain the results that we acquired in the end.’

Centanni currently works as an MD/PhD student both at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Uppsala. Her goal for the future is to help to find innovative solutions for improving therapies of current anticancer drugs.

The prize

The Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus Students is awarded annually to a Master degree candidate of a Coimbra Group University, in any academic discipline, who, having previously undertaken an Erasmus exchange with another Coimbra Group University has in the opinion of the selection committee best demonstrated the added value of that exchange to their Master degree work. The Prize awarded is of the value of €5,000.

More about this year's edition: www.coimbra-group.eu/category/arenberg-cg-prize/

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