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Personalized chemo-radiation of lung and head and neck cancer (AIR FORCE) – VU University Medical Center (VUMC), Amsterdam
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. G.A.M.S. van Dongen
CTMM Program manager: Eric Caldenhoven
Cancer of the upper aero-digestive tract, consisting of lung and head-neck cancer largely related to smoking, is one of the biggest killers. Currently, patients are treated with single, combined or multi-modality therapies using surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, but survival rates are still disappointingly low.
The AIR FORCE consortium aims to improve current chemo-radiotherapy, particularly in relation to enabling ‘personalized’ therapies that take into account the biological differences between patients and their tumors. It will do so by identifying the molecular characteristics of a tumor that indicate chemo-radiation resistance. In addition, contrast agents (PET tracers) will be developed to enable non-invasive imaging of these characteristics in the patient’s body. Using this information, the project aims to facilitate precision delivery of increased radiation doses to resistant tumor areas (dose boosting).
The project is divided into seven work packages:
  1. Identification of molecular determinants from tumors that enable prediction of chemo-therapy response and toxicity
  2. Development of PET tracers to image relevant processes in tumors
  3. Development of software tools to enhance imaging capabilities
  4. Clinical application of molecular diagnostic and imaging tests for planning standardized clinical chemo-therapy
  5. Analysis of results and adjustment of therapy planning
  6. Development of software tools for the combination and statistical analysis of information from clinical records, multi-modality images and molecular diagnostic tests
  7. Assessment of the impact of novel chemo-radiotherapy on Dutch healthcare
Guus van Dongen - dongen_01.jpg
Professor Guus A.M.S. van Dongen, PhD, biochemist, VUmc.Professor van Dongen finished his undergraduate (cum laude) and PhD study in molecular cell biology at the University of Utrecht. In 1989 he received a staff position at the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery VUmc at the laboratory for tumor biology, with focus on experimental detection and targeted therapy. In 2002 he became full professor at this department. In 2006 he also became head of radiochemistry at the Dept of Nuclear Medicine and PET research. (Radionuclide Center).

Professor Guus A.M.S. van Dongen:
"In the Air Force consortium academic and industrial partners with unique complementary expertise in the fields of e.g. molecular and cell biology, biotechnology, clinical drug development, informatics, medical technology assessment and electronics will collaborate closely together, aiming the improved treatment of patients with tumors of the upper aero-digestive tract. In this project innovative molecular navigation tools will be developed and exploited for high precision tumor eradication by personalized chemo-radiotherapy. I think working in such a multidisciplinary translational setting is unique for Europe, and the grant we obtained will enable us to make a firm step forwards in a short time period."
Industrial partners:
  • Philips Electronics 
  • Agendia
  • BG-Medicine
  • MDxHealth
  • Genmab
  • MUBio
  • DSM Research
Academic partners:
  • Nederlands Kanker Instituut (NKI-AVL)
  • Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht,
  • VU Medisch Centrum (VUmc), Amsterdam,
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum Groningen (UMCG), Groningen,
Status of the AIRFORCE project end of 2009: PDF (download)
In response to the first call for project proposals in 2007, the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM) announced on April 1, 2008, that nine first-call projects would receive research funding amounting to a total of 150 million Euro. On March 10, 2009, it announced that eight new project proposals, submitted in the fall of 2008 in response to the second call for proposals, will receive funding amounting to a total of almost another 100 million Euro.
All Dutch university medical centers, plus several universities, a broad spectrum of small and medium-sized enterprises, major industry leaders including Philips and DSM, and the Dutch Government are involved.
The funding is provided by the Dutch government, industry and academia. The research is focused firmly on the ‘translational’ aspects of molecular medicine so that results can be applied as quickly as possible to actual patient care.
Air Force is one of the projects from the first call.
(update: 28 April 2011)




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