Prof.Dr. Marcel Verheij Copyright Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.
11 July 2018 professor Marcel Verheij formally took his leave in a symposium that was organized as a farewell tribute. After 28 years of service in the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) he continues his career as head of radiotherapy in the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen (NL).
In 1990 Dr. Verheij was appointed research physician in the Netherlands Cancer Institute. In 1996 he took his doctorate cum laude on research into methods to reduce radiation damage to the kidney. He trained a radiation oncologist from 1993 to 2000 and was appointed staff member in the radiotherapy department. He specialized in the treatment of tumours in the gastrointestinal tract. In 2004 he became professor of translational radiotherapy in the Free University of Amsterdam. In 2007 he was appointed head of the radiotherapy division of the NKI.
Marcel Verheij will be missed for his amiable style of leadership and his contribution to research. From left to right: Professor Marcel Verheij; Dr. Luc Moonen, radiation oncologist ; Marion Verhoef, medical receptionist; Dr. Luc Dewitt, radiation oncologist.
Besides treating patients and leading the radiotherapy division, Marcel Verheij was a group leader in research in the laboratory of the NKI. The research goal of his group is to enhance radiotherapy by targeted radio sensitization and to reduce side effects. The aim is to translate novel combination strategies from bench to bedside with a focus on cell death and DNA repair/response modulation and radio immunotherapy.
In his farewell symposium Professor Jannie Borst, head of the Immunology Division of the NKI, described the scientific work she shared with Prof. Verheij over the past twenty years: "In his scientific work Marcel studies the combination of drugs and radiotherapy. His aim is to make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation, in order to reduce the required radiation treatment dose while maintaining the biological effectiveness. Invented solutions are clinically implemented as soon as possible "
Much of the joint research involved apoptosis, or cellular suicide. Resistance to apoptosis is a characteristic of tumour cells in which they differ from healthy cells. Apoptosis-induction can be used to kill cancer cells selectively.
Apoptosis-induction is governed by an enzyme controlled mechanism. In combination with radiotherapy certain pro-apoptotic drugs will stimulate apoptosis. The group of Borst and Verheij has explained one of the molecular mechanisms of apoptosis-induction.
Innovation and extension of the Radiotherapy Division.
From 2007 until 2018, under the leadership of Verheij the division realised an extension and renewal of treatment facilities. In 2010 the cooperation with Elekta, manufacturer of treatment solutions was formalised. For this purpose an experimental linear accelerator was installed by Elekta in one of the existing treatment vaults. Both Elekta and the NKI will use this facility to develop and test new treatment techniques, including Cone Beam CT, EPID imaging and advanced MLC techniques. In 2012 the NKI opened an auxiliary radiotherapy department with two linear accelerators in the Spaarne Hospital in the town of Hoofddorp, near Schiphol Airport. In 2012 and 2018 modern equipment for orthovoltage treatment was installed for 250 kV and 50 kV applications respectively. In 2012 the NKI joined the international consortium for the clinical implementation of the revolutionary MR-Linac of Philips and Elekta. One of the first MR-Linac units was installed in the NKI and in September 2018 the first patient has been treated. In 2016 Elekta installed a Gamma Knive with Cone Beam CT that is used for high accuracy brain treatments.