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Start three new research projects possible thanks to KiKa

Improvement in quality of life thanks to a new measurement method and more insight and better prediction of the chance of vascular damage, metabolic syndrome or neurocognitive changes. These are studies that, thanks to KiKa, will soon be able to start at the Princess Máxima Center. Each of the studies funded by KiKa contributes to achieving the mission of the Máxima: Cure every child with cancer, with optimal quality of life.
Laurens van der Flier, managing director of research, says: 'The three projects that have been honored demonstrate the wide variety of research in the Máxima. It is very important to keep making scientific progress in order to achieve our shared goal with KiKa: to cure every child with cancer, with optimal quality of life. We are therefore grateful that KiKa and its donors support us in this endeavor.'

Better insight into quality of life to improve care

The quality of life of children with cancer, their parents and children who have recovered from cancer is measured with questionnaires. This is done not only through the online KLIK portal, but also in various studies and in clinical trials. Prof. Dr. Martha Grootenhuis receives funding to further develop and validate this methodology together with Dr. Lotte Haverman and Prof. Dr. Caroline Terwee of the Amsterdam UMC. Martha Grootenhuis explains: 'Newly developed PROMIS questionnaires make physical, emotional and social conditions more measurable for different ages. Thanks to KiKa, we can now investigate whether these questionnaires are also applicable to the Máxima Center. Our ultimate goal is to measure quality of life as reliably and with the shortest possible questionnaires and, based on the results, to further improve care for children with cancer and their parents.'

Faster and better prediction of likelihood of neurocognitive changes

Treatment of a brain tumor in the posterior fossa may cause changes in memory, language or behavior, which can impact children during treatment or later in life. Dr. Marita Partanen research group leader at the Máxima Center and Dr. Jannie Wijnen, associate professor at the UMCU are joining forces to gain more knowledge and experience with biomarkers that can predict the likelihood of these neurocognitive changes shortly after treatment. Marita Partanen explains: ‘With the UMCU's Ultra high Field MRI scanner, we can image the predictive biomarkers. However, our knowledge and experience in this area in children treated for this brain tumor is limited. Thanks to the KiKa funding, we can change this. Our ultimate goal is to be able to identify children at increased risk of this late effect at an early phase. In addition, this knowledge may also contribute to research into the prevention of the neurocognitive changes.'

Earlier recognition and intervention in late effects stem cell transplant 'survivors'

For some children with leukemia, a stem cell transplant is the only chance for a cure. It is known that children who are cured thanks to this type of treatment experience more and more severe health problems later compared to 'survivors' who were treated with chemotherapy alone. Dr. Dorine Bresters and Dr. Saskia Pluijm can start their research thanks to KiKa. Dorine Bresters: 'From the literature, we know that vascular damage and the so-called metabolic syndrome occur more often in these 'survivors' and go hand in hand with premature aging. Thanks to the KiKa funding, we can investigate this better and look at the connection between these problems and risk factors such as unhealthy lifestyle. This may allow us to better identify 'survivors' with an increased risk and intervene in a timely manner, thereby improving their quality of life.'

KiKa is awarding researchers a total of over €1.1 million for these three projects. KiKa is a very important partner of the Princess Máxima Center and has already made numerous studies and thus progress in pediatric oncology possible.