prof.dr. L.W.M.M. Terstappen (Leon)

Full Professor

About Me

Brief summary of research over last five years

Leon Terstappen is a medical doctor with a PhD in biophysics who is intrigued by finding technology solutions to medical problems. He has become an international recognized expert in cytometry and pioneered the detection of rare cells.  Early in his career he explored the differentiation pathways of hematopoietic cell lineages and identified the phenotype of the hematopoietic stem cell. With the observation of cancer cells in cell suspensions used for stem cell transplantation of breast cancer patients, he changed his focus and started his pioneering work in Circulating Tumor Cells (CTC).   He was in charge of the development of the CellSearch system, the only FDA cleared platform to enumerate CTC in blood. Using this technology, it was demonstrated that the presence of CTC in patients with no known metastatic disease are at high risk for disease recurrence. In patients with metastatic disease the CTC load is strongly associated with poor outcome and the strongest predictor of therapy response. His research efforts at the University of Twente focused on further technology development to identify, isolate and characterize CTC in all patients with disseminated cancer and demonstration of the clinical utility of the developed tools through national and international collaborations with clinical research centers.  Our[EMA(1]  observation of small objects being present in blood of cancer patients and their load being strongly associated with clinical outcome lead to the[EMA(2]  interest in Extracellular Vesicles (EV). We[EMA(3]  baptized these objects as tumor derived EV (tdEV) and observed a large yet unexplained heterogeneity in appearance. Recently technology has been invented and developed to determine the secretome of individual CTC and assess their response to therapy. This is currently being explored in hormone sensitive metastatic prostate cancer through an NWO/KWF project in collaboration with Erasmus. The ultimate objective is to guide individual treatment of cancer patients throughout the course of their disease and along the way validate the “liquid biopsies” technologies to truly enable personalized cancer care.

 In 2007, Terstappen started the department of Medical Cell BioPhysics at The University of Twente. From 1994 to 2007, he was Chief Scientific Officer at Immunicon Corporation, Huntingdon Valley, PA, USA. From 1987 to 1994, he held various research positions in the research department of Becton Dickinson Immunocytometry systems in Mountain View CA, USA. He obtained his PhD from the University of Twente and his medical degree from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.


Circulating Neoplastic Cells
Breast Neoplasms
Extracellular Vesicles
Prostatic Neoplasms
Surface Plasmon Resonance


Steggink, L. C., Boer, H., Meijer, C., Lefrandt, J. D. , Terstappen, L. W. M. M., Fehrmann, R. S. N., & Gietema, J. A. (2021). Genome-wide association study of cardiovascular disease in testicular cancer patients treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. Pharmacogenomics Journal, 21(2), 152-164. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41397-020-00191-8
Mendelaar, P. A. J., Kraan, J., Van, M. , Zeune, L. L. , Terstappen, L. W. M. M., Oomen-de Hoop, E., Martens, J. W. M., & Sleijfer, S. (2021). Defining the dimensions of circulating tumor cells in a large series of breast, prostate, colon, and bladder cancer patients. Molecular oncology, 15(1), 116-125. https://doi.org/10.1002/1878-0261.12802
Rikkert, L. G., Engelaer, M., Hau, C. M. , Terstappen, L. W. M. M., Nieuwland, R. , & Coumans, F. A. W. (2020). Rate zonal centrifugation can partially separate platelets from platelet‐derived vesicles. Research and practice in thrombosis and haemostasis, 4(6), 1053-1059. [6]. https://doi.org/10.1002/rth2.12366
Mayado Colino, A., Orfao, A. , Mentink-Leusink, A., Gutiérrez, M. L., Munoz-Bellvis, L. , & Terstappen, L. W. M. M. (2020). Detection of circulating tumor cells in blood of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients. Cancer Drug Resistance, 3, 83-97. https://doi.org/10.20517/cdr.2019.73
Beekman, P. , Enciso-Martinez, A., Piontek, M. , Terstappen, L., Roos, W. , Otto, C. , & Le Gac, S. (2020). Multi-modal analysis of tumor-derived extracellular vesicles immunocaptured from plasma. In MicroTAS 2020 - 24th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences (pp. 404-405). (MicroTAS 2020 - 24th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences). The Chemical and Biological Microsystems Society.
Faugeroux, V., Pailler, E., Oulhen, M., Deas, O., Brulle-Soumare, L., Hervieu, C., Marty, V., Alexandrova, K. , Andree, K. C., Stoecklein, N. H., Tramalloni, D., Cairo, S., NgoCamus, M., Nicotra, C. , Terstappen, L. W. M. M., Manaresi, N., Lapierre, V., Fizazi, K., Scoazec, J-Y., ... Farace, F. (2020). Genetic characterization of a unique neuroendocrine transdifferentiation prostate circulating tumor cell-derived eXplant model. Nature communications, 11, [1884]. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15426-2
Tamminga, M. , Andree, K. C., Hiltermann, T. J. N., Jayat, M., Schuuring, E., Bos, H. V. D., Spierings, D. C. J., Lansdorp, P. M., Timens, W. , Terstappen, L. W. M. M., & Groen, H. J. M. (2020). Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells in the Diagnostic Leukapheresis Product of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer Patients Comparing CellSearch® and ISET. Cancers, 12(4), [896]. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12040896
Beekman, P. , Enciso-Martinez, A., Pujari, S., Zuilhof, H. , Terstappen, L. , Otto, C. , & Le Gac, S. (2020). Organosilicon interaction with biological membranes. In MicroTAS 2020 - 24th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences (pp. 1035-1036). The Chemical and Biological Microsystems Society.

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University of Twente
Faculty of Science and Technology
Carré (building no. 15), room C4437
Hallenweg 23
7522NH  Enschede
The Netherlands

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University of Twente
Faculty of Science and Technology
Carré  C4437
P.O. Box 217
7500 AE Enschede
The Netherlands