Study tour by radiologist Frans Gaarenstroom

1912 Double arc x_ray 

Samariterhaus, Heidelberg (D) in 1912; radiotherapy room with two X-ray tubes in a focussing arc stand.

During the inaugural meeting of the board of the Netherlands Cancer Institute of 10 October 1913, it is decided to offer Dr. Frans Gaarenstroom, who is head of the X-ray therapy in the surgical clinic of Professor Rotgans, the possibility of studying modern radiation therapy in cancer centres abroad [3]. Engaged as head of the radiation therapy department of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, he continues in this position from 1915 to 1921.

In Vienna, Frans Gaarenstroom is received by Professors Riehl, Van Eiselsberg, Guido Holzknecht and Schrameck. In Munich he visits the clinic of Professors Döderlein and Grashey. In Heidelberg, at the Samariterhaus, he is received by Professors Czerny and Werner and in Paris by Drs. Dominici, Degrais and Béclère.

He reports positively on his findings and concludes:

  • Radiation treatment has positive effects . Some tumours, by the application of radiation, are made suitable for surgical treatment; others disappear altogether. There are few tumours which are not affected by radiation.
  • If the tumour can be removed surgically, that should be preferred. In other cases irradiation is a good alternative. 
  • After surgery, the surgical field and the regional lymph node areas should be irradiated.
  • A radiotherapy clinic should have both X-ray equipment and radium available. Different target areas require different treatment techniques.
  • It is recommended that radiation treatment is supported by chemotherapy, the use of which makes the tumour more sensitive to radiation. In this respect, arsenic and enzytol (boric acid choline) are named.
  • It is of the utmost importance that particular attention is given to the correct radiation dosage and to develop expertise in its practical application.

Based on the new insights, dr Gaarenstroom starts to treat cancer patients with X-rays and radium irradiation in the surgery department of Professor Jacob Rotgans in the Binnen Gasthuis.  He is considered to be a pioneer and the first specialised radiotherapist in The Netherlands.  An extensive publication of the results of his study tour appears in Het Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde [5].  

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. ,
  • [5] Ned. Tijdschr. v. Gen. (Netherlands Medical Journal) 14. I., 1914, pp 1030 – 1053 : G F Gaarenstroom, Over de behandeling van kanker met röntgenstralen en radioactieve stoffen. ,