ESR 18Molecular imaging of angiogenesis and therapeutic effects of anti-angiogenetic agents in rheumatoid arthritis

PhD research


Dr Conny J. van de Laken

Department of Rheumatology

Amsterdam UMC, location VUMC

Duration: 48 months


Angiogenesis is present in synovial tissue of joints in RA patients from the very early stage onwards. Hereby, angiogenesis is a potential valuable target for early diagnosis of RA and monitoring of treatment efficacy. Endothelial cells (EC) are pivotal in the process of angiogenesis, as their activation can result in the formation of new blood vessels. Our group developed a number of anti-angiogenic agents that target and block EC activity and hereby angiogenesis.

In order to detect and monitor therapeutic effects on angiogenesis in inflamed joints, sensitive imaging techniques are required. Our group has previously shown that molecular imaging using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and specific PET tracers is a highly sensitive and potentially specific imaging approach to visualize inflammatory activity in RA.

Our Hypothesis is that Angiogenesis in synovial tissue in RA can be targeted (1) to detect disease activity in RA, and (2) to monitor therapeutic effects of novel agents that intervene with angiogenesis.  This hypothesis will be investigated using novel molecular imaging tracers and pharmacological inhibitors.


The workplan will consist of 2 phases:

  • 1) Novel molecular imaging biomarkers that target angiogenesis will be generated and investigated in the project for their potential to detect inflammatory activity in preclinical (in vitro and in vivo) RA models.
  • 2) Therapeutic monitoring of therapeutic blockade of angiogenesis in preclinical RA models using molecular imaging techniques.

The PhD candidate will coordinate and perform these studies, analyse the data and write scientific articles to report the results.  

Our research team

  • - Dept. of Rheumatology (location VUmc & AMC): Dr. C.J. vd Laken(associate professor and expert in translational molecular imaging of immunology) , dr. G. Jansen (biochemist and expert in areas of therapeutics and drug resistance) , prof. dr. R.F. v Vollenhoven (head of department and expert in large clinical trials in several reumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and SLE), dr. S.W. Tas (associate professor and expert in angiogenesis in rheumatic diseases).

    - Dept. of Medical Oncology (Cancer Center Amsterdam): Prof. dr. A. Griffioen (expert in angiogenesis in oncology)

    - Dept. Radiology & Nuclear Medicine (AMC-location VUmc): dr. W. Beaino, dr. D. Vugts, prof. dr. A.D. Windhorst, prof.dr. G.A.M.S. van Dongen (expert team to perform translational molecular imaging studies in immunology).

  • Your profile

        • - Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences with affinity for immunology and translational research

          - Rheumatology and Nuclear Medicine interest

          - Relevant skills in immunological methods

          - Preferably advanced skills of working with animals

          - Flexible, pro-active team spirit, but also to work independently

          - Proficiency in English language (written & verbal).

Our offer

All ARCAID ESRs receive a full employment contract for 4 years, according to the Collective Employment Agreement (CAO) of the Dutch University Medical Centres. The monthly salary based on a 36-hour work starts from €2.422,- with yearly increments to a maximum of € 3.103,-. This 4-year PhD position is funded by the  Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions of the European Union's Horizon 2020 COFUND program under grant agreement No 847551. There is no separate budget available for mobility as it is already included in the ESR salary. ESRs may attend external courses, conferences or workshops. If applicable or required, additional expenses for training and conference participation and the travel to a Partner Organisation will be covered by the project. The ESR salary meets the requirements of the Dutch Immigration Department to allow family members to move to the Netherlands. It is at the convenience of the ESR to decide on this family movement since the Amsterdam UMC will not cover additional expenses regarding mobility of spouse nor for the required accompanying residence permits. In addition to their individual scientific projects, all fellows will have the opportunity to attend international progress meetings, scientific conferences and summer schools. Additionally, they benefit from further continuing education, which includes internships and secondments, a variety of training modules as well as transferable skills courses. See recruitment procedure.

Your application

See recruitment procedure. You can apply using the online application form. For more information about the project you can contact Dr. Conny van der Laken.