Establishment of the Cancer Institute of the Dutch East Indies (NIKI)

1937 NIKI laboratorium Bosschadag kl.jpg 

Photograph in 1937 of part of the NIKI laboratory building at the Juliana Hospital in Bandung on the island of Java, in the former colony of the Dutch east Indies. The picture is taken during the annual Bosscha day.  The Bosscha days were annual study days following the example of the Leeuwenhoek days in Amsterdam. In 1945 the colony is declared independant. In present day Indonesia the former Juliana hospital is named Rumah Sakit (=hospital) Hassan Sadikin.  

In 1920, Professor Jacob Rotgans, chairman of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, makes a propaganda trip through the Dutch East Indies.  His goal was to set up cancer research also in the tropical East Indies. He considered it important to be able to compare research data coming from countries which differ strongly in climate and population, such as The Netherlands and the East Indies.  He gave lectures for physicians and lay people in Batavia, Medan, Semarang and Bandung. In general, the reception was tepid, although the Governor General Van Limburg Stirum showed some interest. But in Bandung, he received a warm welcome from the rich and socially active tea planters from the Preanger. And it is there that in 1922, the Netherlands Indies Cancer Institute (NIKI) was established. A laboratory was opened on the campus of the Juliana hospital. Pathology and histology research was carried out in this laboratory on tissue which had been sent to them through a network of physicians throughout the East Indies.  For the treatment of patients, there was collaboration between existing hospitals. In the second World War, the NIKI was disbanded by the Japanese occupation.

The Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam negotiated the ordering and delivery of the necessary radium.  In 2012, the quality certificates and the invoices for this "Indische" radium are kept in the archives of the NKI.  From the annual reports of the NIKI, it can be seen that at least 400 mg of radium was delivered to the East Indies.  This was lent to a number of hospitals in particular on the island of Java.  For X-ray irradiation, there was higher quality radiation equipment than in the NKI in Amsterdam. A modern American machine was used, Victor X-Ray type SNOOK 240 kV, 5 mA, and an automatic dose counter of the brand Mecapion [21].

These advertisements taken from the British Journal of Radiology of January 1930 show an example of the instrumentation in Bandung:

NIKI Victor Snook röntgentoestel.jpg


NIKI Mecapion dosimeter.jpg KAR Bosscha.jpg

 The establishment of the NIKI was made possible by princely donations and a large legacy from the well-known planter-administrator K.A.R. Bosscha.  He was unmarried and used a part of his capital to stimulate social improvements and public facilities in the colony. For this reason, his name is still honoured in modern Indonesia.









Bronnen & Publicaties

  • [3] Gedenkschrift der Vereeniging Het Nederlands Kankerinstituut (Memorial publication of the society The Netherlands Cancer Institute). On the occasion of the move of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek-huis from Keizersgracht 706 to Sarphatistraat 106/8 in Amsterdam on 25 september 1929, by prof. Dr J. Rotgans, publ. J. H. de Bussy. ,
  • [21] Jaarverslag Nederlands Indisch kanker Instituut 1930, bijlage III, (archive: library of the NKI) ,