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New professor wants to improve care for sarcoma patients

Doctors should work with patients with bone and soft-tissue tumours to find the best personal treatment strategy says Prof. Michiel den de Sande. He has developed an app that helps choose the right treatment. Van de Sande was appointed Professor of Orthopaedics with a particular focus on paediatric orthopaedic oncology on 1 May 2020.

Van de Sande is an orthopaedic surgeon at the Department of Orthopaedics at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). He specialises in bone and soft-tissue tumours and general paediatric orthopaedics. ‘As I work at both the LUMC and the Princess Maxima Centre for Child Oncology, I can implement techniques from orthopaedic oncology in paediatric oncology and vice versa. This helps us continually optimise surgical care.’

Better joint decisions

Patients with bone and soft-tissue tumours and their doctors often face complex treatment decisions. For instance, whether a patient should continue to receive radiation therapy after a tumour has been removed. ‘On the basis of international patient data, such as the type of tumour and treatment, we have developed a model that should help decide which treatment to choose.’ The model has been incorporated in the PERSARC app and gives the patient a personal prognosis for each treatment option. ‘We have to decide on the optimal treatment strategy together – doctor and patient – and this strategy is different for each patient.’

Less anxiety

Van de Sande thinks the PERSARC app could provide more options. At the start of next year a study will begin with the app. ‘We want to be able to use the app to predict when a patient is at most risk of the tumour returning after treatment. On the basis of calculations, the app tells you that the patient should have more check-ups immediately after treatment, for instance, and fewer as time passes.’ This makes it a safe way to decide how many check-ups to schedule. ‘That doesn’t just save money but can also reduce anxiety in the patient,’ says Van de Sande.

Glowing tumours

Alongside helping with treatment choices, Van de Sande is also involved in optimising surgical oncology. ‘If we can use imaging to make the tumour visible to doctors, they will be able to remove the tumour more precisely. The likelihood of it returning then decreases.’

Similar technology is already used for colon tumours. Van de Sande is researching whether a specific biomarker can be used to light up bone and soft-tissue tumours in adults and children. ‘The research is now in a preclinical phase. We hope to be able to test it in a clinical setting afterwards.’

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