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Medical Delta professor Lioe-Fee de Geus-Oei: 'We work together for the patient'

Professor of Radiology Lioe-Fee de Geus-Oei was already a professor at LUMC and the University of Twente. As Medical Delta professor, she has now also been appointed at Delft University of Technology. 'Talking with people from other disciplines always makes me immensely humble, because they look at the same matter in a different way than I do, and I am always taken by surprise by their point of view.'

De Geus-Oei's research provides valuable information for customized treatment in cancer. She is a nuclear medicine physician and works with innovative molecular imaging techniques and ‘theranostics,’ using the same set of molecules for both diagnostics and therapy.

Lioe-Fee de Geus-Oei

'The appointment as Medical Delta professor is for me a very nice recognition that the field of nuclear medicine sits beautifully at the intersections of medicine, physics, chemistry and pharmacy,' says Lioe Fee de Geus-Oei. 'Our staff and scientific association has long consisted of this mix of professionals and interdisciplinary collaboration is in our capillaries. That is one of the strengths of our profession and, as far as I am concerned, may it always stay that way.'

With her official appointment as Medical Delta professor, De Geus-Oei expects to intensify what she is already doing and perpetuate it for the long term. 'Making contacts and sharing data is easier. It pays to invest in each other and you can build trust in each other's knowledge and expertise. This collaboration thus offers broadening research opportunities. I am extremely happy to be part of this.'

Can you briefly share what your expertise is?

'Our research focuses on better patient selection in cancer treatment, with the goal that patients only receive a particular therapy that will actually benefit them. Drugs that you give to patients very often act on receptors. However, you don't know if those receptors are present in that particular patient. A biopsy can provide information about that in an invasive way. However, this only says something about one subarea of a single lesion at a certain point in time. Our method brings the whole body into focus. You can repeat this at multiple points during the disease process. You can thus non-invasively look at all the lesions of the body, measure whether a specific patient has good expression and determine whether that patient is suitable for a particular therapy.

Customized therapy can save high healthcare costs which benefits society as a whole. For the patient, it is even more important that you do not start treating with something that in hindsight did not work well, and did cause unpleasant side effects. By providing effective therapy right away, you can also save the patient valuable time. This is not yet possible in the short term, but it is our horizon. We are contributing small steps, standing on the shoulders of many researchers who have taken many steps before us.'

What is it like working with someone from a completely different discipline?

'Talking with people from other disciplines always humbles me immensely, because then it strikes me how differently they view the same matter and how I am surprised by their point of view. I can really enjoy that. This cross-pollination enriches my frame of mind as well as my scientific framework. As a nuclear physician, you work with many universities and hospitals. That comes very naturally because you don't have all the facilities in-house. You also need each other to have enough patients with rare diseases for research. The boundaries between institutions, both medical and technical, are dissolving. Also at European level. It's about being able to bring something to the patient that matters.'

What is the tip for good cooperation?

'My tip is: above all, do it together, really together. What I hate in science is 'every man for himself and God for all'. We have to get rid of that. If you do things together, you achieve more. That means, for example, not sitting on your data and allowing everyone who has something meaningful to contribute to participate. We work together for the patient.

What also plays a positive role in collaborating is the fact that more and more women are participating at the top of science. There is a difference in emotion between men and women. Women are generally not about being on top of the monkey rock. I think it's important to further break the glass ceiling, because we need more female leadership in science.'

You are also involved in training clinical technologists. What is their role in the health care of the future?

'Our changing and rapidly aging society has a big impact on health care. We need to do better and work more, with fewer people. How? There is only one solution to that: using technology. Clinical technologists are a result of collaboration between medical and engineering universities. They are the kind of professionals very much needed in implementing the growing number of technological innovations in healthcare.

Still, there is room for improvement in embedding this profession in the clinical setting. For starters, it would help if the government financed the specialization of clinical technologists, analogous to medical specialist training. Furthermore, the financial handling of their healthcare activities is not yet well regulated. In addition, the job profile of the clinical technologist is not yet standardly mentioned in the collective bargaining agreement of teaching hospitals. I hope that this will change and that I can play a catalyzing role in this. My commitment to this is now extra powerful because of my dual chair at the two technical universities that train these professionals.'

Whose work has really surprised you and why?

'I could name four or five scientists whose work I am fascinated by. But if I have to single one out, I pick Dennis Schaart. He is affiliated with TU Delft. His research has led to the development of better detectors for TOF-PET and photon-counting CT. This has greatly increased the image quality of PET/CT scans. He is also now working on several potentially better technologies. These are all studies that interest and fascinate me.'

Photographer header: Eelkje Colmjon
Photographer portrait: De Beeldredacteur 

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