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Appointment of first Professor with a chair in Proton Therapy

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29 September 2017

The University of Groningen has appointed Stefan Both as Professor of Clinical Physics, with a chair in Proton Therapy at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). His appointment commenced on 1 September 2017. The UMCG is one of the first centres in the Netherlands to build a proton therapy centre. It will offer this form of radiation (new to the Netherlands) to cancer patients from the end of 2017 onwards. Both is the first professor in the Netherlands to occupy a chair in Proton Therapy.

Stefan Both (Romania, 1970) is a long-standing expert in clinical physics in the field of radiotherapy, with vast experience in proton therapy. Having started his career in nuclear medicine, he soon switched to radiotherapy. In 1999 Both moved to the United States, where he developed his talents as a physicist in the Faculty of Medicine in the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania (Penn). He not only focused on treatment programmes within radiotherapy, but also spent years conducting academic research into technical innovations and the introduction of proton therapy.

As a lecturer at Penn, he was particularly interested in diversity. Having noticed that women and certain minority groups were under-represented in the radiology workforce, he sought strategies to improve diversity.

In 2008 he was invited to head the programme for the clinical implementation of proton therapy. In this position, he continued to combine patient care, teaching duties and academic research activities, bridging the gap between clinical requirements and the state of technology through research and development work. At present, Penn uses proton therapy to treat practically all forms of cancer in children and adults.

In the UMCG, Both will carry on with his clinical work, teaching duties and academic research. Both considers working on advances in cancer treatment with colleagues to be his main driving force. His research will focus on proton therapy with pencil beam scanning, adaptive proton therapy, the effects of motion on dose delivery and techniques to optimize proton dose delivery. Both sees great opportunities for improving the results of proton therapy by using what is referred to as the model-based method, which was developed in the UMCG. The Department of Radiotherapy at the UMCG has developed Rapid Learning Health Care systems, which enable new technological developments for improving treatment results to be implemented (and evaluated) swiftly as part of routine practice.

Using proton therapy, a small but highly accurate dose of radiation can be administered to a tumour, causing less damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. This is particularly important for children, as they are still growing and their healthy body cells are highly sensitive to radiation. Adult patients also benefit from proton therapy, as it helps to prevent complications caused by radiation. An estimated 10% of all patients currently undergoing radiotherapy will ultimately benefit from proton therapy.

The UMCG is working with hospitals and radiotherapy institutes in the region to refer adult patients in the north-east of the Netherlands. For referrals of children with cancer, the UMCG is working with the Princess Máxima Center in Utrecht.