In the afternoon of the 16th of November, a group of students was waiting outside Flux to leave for the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the biggest university hospital in the Netherlands and with a large focus on cancer research. Two vans had been arranged, and off we drove to Rotterdam. After about an hour and a half, and a detour through Rotterdam because of faulty navigation, we arrived at the Cancer Institute.
After a warm welcome we were led to a lecture hall, where several speakers introduced us to their research topics. Firstly we had a short introduction on what the Erasmus MC and the Cancer Institute is, and what types of research and treatment are being done there. Secondly, we had a lecture about Radio Therapy. This was introducing us to the way that patients are currently being irradiated at the Cancer Institute, and how treatments are planned.
After that we were shown a new treatment method, Proton Therapy. With this treatment patients are being irradiated not with photons, but with protons. As protons are quite massive for particles, the equipment needed is far bigger than for the standard treatment, and very expensive. The advantage of proton therapy is that the administered dose to the patient is mostly concentrated on the tumor, and as a result there is very little exposure to other organs or tissue.
The last lecture was about the Hyperthermia treatment. With a special rig that fits in an MRI, the researchers at the Cancer Institute can heat up a tumor locally, and with the MRI monitor the temperature. The heating happens with 12 dipole antennas, and uses electromagnetic waves to heat up the cells. The tumor is heated up to about 40 degrees Celsius, which makes it more sensitive to irradiation.
After the lectures were done, we were split up into two groups and went to see the treatment rooms. At the Radio Therapy Lab we were shown the Cyberknife, which the technician told us is basically a linear accelerator mounted to an industrial robot arm, like the ones used in car manufacturing. In the other Lab we were shown the setup for Hyperthermia treatment, which was currently being used for the treatment of cervical cancer.
After all this was done, there was still time to socialize with the researchers and have a few drinks, before we were off to Eindhoven again.