The Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding, KWF) as donated € 4.5 million to a new type of cancer research in Groningen. The research will make proton therapy, a new form of radiation, available for more people. KWF has donated a total of € 32.5 million to 54 new research projects. ‘We remain committed to our support for scientific research into better methods to prevent, detect and treat cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, we can invest in excellent cancer research at this scale,’ says Prof. Fred Falkenburg, director of KWF.
With proton therapy, patients are exposed to radiation from positively charged particles, which can target the tumor much more precisely than current radiation techniques. This results in much less damage to healthy tissue, and the patient thus experiences fewer undesirable effects. In the summer of 2018, the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) opened the first proton radiation facility in the Netherlands.
Although the first few patients have already undergone proton radiation successfully, the treatment will be further optimized in the coming years. An important incentive for this is the granting of around € 2.8 million to the research group headed by Professor Sytze Brandenburg at the KVI-CART from the University of Groningen. His optimization project includes the development of techniques for imagery-guided radiation and the improvement of individual radiation schedules. The insights that this project will deliver will also contribute to a better understanding of the interaction between proton therapy and other treatments, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Professor Rob Coppes at the UMCG has received a sum of almost € 1.7 million for his research into the effects of proton radiation on different biological processes in the body. This knowledge is important for further improving this treatment, which is still relatively new. Coppes will firstly focus on patients with brain and head/neck cancer, as damage to healthy tissue can have strong effects on this group. For them, a more precise form of radiation is a very promising development.
Before KWF finances any research, a project proposal and careful assessment process must take place. For the proposal to be approved, the following criteria are central: scientific quality, feasibility and relevance for the fight against cancer. Hundreds of oncology peers from the Netherlands and abroad assess the project proposals based on these criteria. Partly based on their findings, the assessment committees of the KWF Board of Advisors give advice to KWF. Taking into account all of the input, the KWF takes the definitive funding decision. KWF supports all researchers in achieving their goals. By dealing with bottlenecks and seizing opportunities for breakthroughs, KWF helps researchers and patients to progress.
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