The Antoni van Leeuwenhoek is a comprehensive cancer centre, combining a dedicated cancer hospital and cancer institute in a single organization. The hospital has an intensive infrastructure for clinical research that includes clinical data management, psychosocial research and a large array of diagnostic (imaging) facilities. The department of Head and Neck Oncology and Surgery (HNO&S) is a one of the major referral centres in The Netherlands with 600 new cases per year. The department has a longstanding internationally well recognized, tradition of clinical scientific research focusing the loss of function post treatment, revalidation, and Quality-of-Life (QoL) of patients after treatment. This line of research reaches back into the 1990s.
From the mid-nineties of the last century the department performs research on organ sparing treatment using photodynamic therapy and concurrent chemoradiation. In 2004 an international multi-institutional randomized study was accomplished (including 239 patients) comparing intra-arterially and intravenously administered cisplatin (Cancer 2010; 116: 2159–65) for patients with anatomical and functional inoperable advanced head and neck cancer. The new clinical concept of functional inoperability was developed for this trial and impact for clinical decision making was studied culminating in the recent thesis defence of AM Kreeft (2013) which laid the groundwork for the virtual therapy project. The department of HNO&S has collaborated with the University of Twente in building 3D dynamic models of the tongue and the lips. This has resulted in student collaborations (5 Master Theses) and in two joined on-going PhD projects at the AVL and UT, just recently leading to a set up for intra-operative hypoglossal nerve stimulation and recording of tongue movements by 3D video marker tracking (see image). In addition, a model has been developed for an electromyography-based activation model for lip movements.