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Maarten van der Weijden foundation and KiKa grant over hundred thousand euro for research into early detection of heart damage associated with childhood cancer

In January 2020 a scientific study into the early detection of heart damage associated with childhood cancer, funded by the Maarten van der Weijden foundation and KiKa, will be launched. “A great step forward to a better future for children with cancer and for those who have survived the disease", says pediatric oncologist Annelies Mavinkurve. The EARLY Study into children with cancer is a collaboration between researchers and pediatric oncologists at the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology, pediatric cardiologists from the Wilhelmina Children's Hospital and radiologists from the UMC Utrecht.

The survival rate of children with cancer has greatly improved in recent years, allowing these children to grow older and older. “Unfortunately, certain types of chemotherapy (for example, anthracyclines*) and radiation of the region around the heart can lead to damage to heart cells," say pediatric cardiologist Heynric Grotenhuis and researcher Lieke Feijen. “As a result, these children have an increased risk of reduced heart function in later life, which can ultimately lead to heart failure and premature death. We don't know exactly why one child's heart is affected and another child is not. If we would be able to identify the children who develop heart damage at an early stage of their treatment, we can prevent further damage by, for example, giving a lower dose of anthracyclines.”

The picture shows (from left to right) radiologist Prof. dr. Tim Leiner, Prof. dr. Leontien Kremer (Late Effects Research PI), pediatric oncologist Dr. Annelies Mavinkurve, Dr. Lieke Feijen (senior researcher of the Kremer Group) and pediatric cardiologist Dr. Heynric Grotenhuis.

Early detection, prompt treatment

The EARLY study is conducted among 100 children, at 3 different measuring moments, to find out whether heart damage can be detected at an early stage by means of new advanced ultrasound and MRI techniques. Tim Leiner, expert in advanced cardiac MRI imaging, and Leontien Kremer say, “It is expected that the new techniques will allow us to detect heart damage at and earlier stage. If this is really the case, our study will make a positive contribution to the quality of life of these children in their childhood, but also in their adult life.”

* Anthracyclines damage the DNA of cancer cells. They are very effective, but the downside is that they can cause heart damage.