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Predicting OptimaL cAncer RehabilItation and Supportive care


Due to advances in early detection and treatment, survival after cancer has improved substantially. Unfortunately for most patients, cancer survivorship is associated with long term adverse physical and psychosocial symptoms, reducing the quality of life (QoL). Numerous cancer rehabilitation and supportive care programs aiming at improving QoL exist, but effect sizes are generally small to moderate. Clinical practice shows that a program may be effective in some patients, but not in others. The working components of rehabilitation and supportive care programs should be identified and rehabilitation and supportive care needs to shift from a one-size fits all approach to personalized care, tailored to the patient’s characteristics, capabilities, and preferences.

POLARIS aims to improve QoL of cancer patients by optimizing cancer rehabilitation and supportive care using an individually tailored and evidence-based approach.
It aims to identify what rehabilitation and supportive care program works best for which (groups of) patients, under what circumstances (moderators) and through which mechanisms (mediators).
Furthermore, we aim to build a clinical prediction model that predicts which intervention has th highest probability of success for the patient.

The POLARIS study is embedded in the inter-institutional research program of the EMGO+ Institute and VUmc CCA/V-ICI ‘Quality of life in cancer and immunology’.
We set-up a unique international network of experts in rehabilitation and supportive care in cancer. We create a comprehensive database of individual patient data from high quality randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and infrastructure for inclusion of future trials in the database. Consequently, we conduct individual patient data meta-analyses. We evaluate the effect of exercise and psychosocial interventions on QoL compared with usual care or wait-list control group using multilevel regression analyses.
We investigate what program works best for whom, under what circumstances (moderators), and through which mechanisms (mediators), using state-of-the-art moderation and mediation analysis.. We conduct a series of moderated multiple regression analyses to investigate which socio-demographic, clinical and personal characteristics and intervention type and circumstances moderate the effect of exercise and psychosocial interventions on QoL. We conduct-state-of-the-art mediation analyses to study whether the intervention effect on QoL is mediated by fatigue, physical fitness and function, or psychosocial function.
We conduct multiple backwards logistic regression analysis to build a model that predicts which intervention has the highest probability of success, i.e. improve the patient’s QoL. Subsequently, the prediction model is internally and externally validated and translated into an easily applicable clinical decision rule.


POLARIS is funded through the Bas Mulder Award, granted to Laurien Buffart by the Alpe d’HuZes foundation/Dutch Cancer Society. (4 years)


PhD position

J. Kalter, MSc, Health scientist, physiotherapist EMGO Institute for Health and Care research and the dpt. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VUmc
Principle Investigators
L.M. Buffart, PhD, Human movement scientist, epidemiologist, EMGO Institute for Health and Care research and the dpt. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VUmc
Prof. J. Brug, PhD, director of the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VUmc
Prof I.M. Verdonck-de Leeuw, PhD, Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapist, Linguïst, dpt. Otolaryngology-Head&Neck Surgery, VUmc.


Consortium members:
National partners:
prof. N. Aaronson (Dutch Cancer Institute); prof. G. Bleijenberg (Expert centre for chronic fatigue, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen); prof. P. Cuijpers (Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University Amsterdam); dr. A. May (Julius Centrum UMC Utrecht; prof. J. Prins (Dept. of Medical Psychology, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen); prof. R. Sanderman (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen/University Medical Center Groningen) enriched by members of the Dutch comprehensive cancer centres (dr. M. Velthuis (IKNL) and dr. L. van de Poll-Franse (IKZ and Tilburg University).

International partners:
dr. S. Berntsen (University of Oslo & Cancer Centre for Education and Rehabilitation, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway); prof. I. De Bourdeaudhuij (University of Gent, Belgium),; prof. W. Breitbart (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York); prof. K. Courneya (Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada); E. van Hoof (director Cancer center, Belgium); prof. M. Irwin (Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, USA); prof. P. Jacobsen, (Lee Moffit Cancer Center and Research Institute  University of South Florida, Tampa); prof. C. Johansen (Institute of cancer epidemiology, Copenhagen, and National Centre for Cancer Rehabilitation Research, Odense, Denmark); prof. R. Newton (Centre for of exercise and sports science, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia); dr. J. Savard (Centre de recherche en cancérologie de l'Université Laval, Québec, Canada); dr. K. Steindorf (German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany); dr. J. Wiskemann (German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany); dr. L. Jones (Duke Cancer Institute, Durham, USA)


For questions, please contact:
Laurien Buffart, PhD
E-mail: l.buffart@vumc.nl


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News flashes


PhD thesis Mirjam de Vries

March 22, 2019 Mirjam de Vries defended her thesis “Physicians‘ defence mechanisms during communication with advanced cancer patients”. 


PhD thesis Joeri Kalter

September 28, 2018 Joeri Kalter defended his thesis “Exercise and psychosocial interventions to improve quality of life in patients with cancer”. 


PhD thesis Sanne Duman-Lubberding

July 4, 2018 Sanne Duman-Lubberding defended her thesis "Online Patient Reported Outcome Measures to faciltate supportive care in Head and Neck Cancer patients".


PhD thesis Femke Jansen

January 15, 2018  Femke Jansen defended her thesis “Supportive care in head and neck cancer patients. Patient-reported needs and costs”. 

PhD thesis Janneke Rood

September 11, 2017 Janneke Rood defended her thesis "Perceived need for information and treatment decision-making in patients with hematological malignancies: not "one size fits all".


Amsterdam Public Health project

Within the context of the alliance VUmc-AMC Prof dr Ellen Laan (AMC) and prof dr Irma Verdonck-de Leeuw (VUmc) received a grant for the project "Sexual well-being in head and neck cancer patients".


Treatment of psychological distress in patients with head and neck or lung cancer cost-effective.
A recent study of PhD-student Femke Jansen and colleagues, recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology


PhD thesis Nadine Köhle

December 15, 2016 Nadine Köhle defended her PhD thesis "Hold on, for each other. Supporting partners of cancer patients via eHealth and positive psychology". 


PhD thesis Anne-Marie Krebber

December 2, 2016 Anne-Marie Krebber defended her PhD thesis "Stepped care targeting psychological distress in head and neck cancer and lung cancer patients".


PhD thesis Nadia van der Spek

September 7, 2016, Nadia van der Spek defended her PhD thesis "Meaning-centered group psychotherapy for cancer survivors: development, efficacy, and cost-utility". 


EORTC QLG Newsletter Spring 2016
The EORTC QLG  Spring Meeting took place on April 20th and 21th 2016 in Oslo. The Spring newsletter of the EORTC QLG is now available. 

PhD thesis Ingrid Cnossen

April 12, 2016, Ingrid Cnossen defended her PhD thesis entiteld “Self-management Supporting Rehabilitation in Head and Neck Cancer Patients”. 


VU/VUmc and Red-kite sign agreement for the provision of the Oncokompas in healthcare.

The VU University Amsterdam and VUmc Cancer Center Amsterdam work with Red-kite, distributor of software for hospitals in Netherlands. (November 3, 2015)


PhD thesis Christine van Gogh

December 4, 2015, Christine van Gogh defended her PhD thesis entiteld “Functional outcome of early glottic cancer”. 

Book presentation

On June 15th, 2015, Irma Verdonck presented the book "In Tune Without Cords" (in Dutch: VerderZonderStembanden) to Rob Burdorf, the president of the patient society for patients after laryngectomy.


PhD thesis Florien Boele

May 11 Florien Boele defended her PhD thesis, entitled "Towards improving health-related quality of life in glioma patients and their informal caregvers".


PhD thesis Trille Kristina Kjaer

May 8, Trille Kjaer will defend her PhD thesis entitled "Late effects after treatment of head and neck cancer and use of patient reported outcomes in clinical practice." Irma Verdonck is member of the committee.


Niels Stensen Fellowship
Florien Boele has received a Niels Stensen Fellowship. This is a scholarship that is awarded annually to a number of outstanding researchers who have recently obtained their PhD degree, to gain working experience abroad. Florien Boele will go to Pittsburgh (United States) and Edinburgh (Scotland) in 2015 and 2016.

Key paper

The publication “Prevalence of depression in cancer patients: a meta-analysis of diagnostic interviews and self-report instruments” of A.M.H. Krebber et.al is chosen by the Editors as one of the key papers in Psycho-oncology, (issue June 2014).


On April 10th, 2014, the first edition of the Value Based Healthcare Prize took place. The prize for the most exceptional initiative in collaborations went to Jippa, a collaborative by VUmc, CZ, Radboud UMC and Tilburg University.


In November 2013 the NVPO organised the International Congress "Innovation in Psycho-Oncology". The researchgroup held several presentations and posters.


Interested in oncological care chain? Come 2 October 2013 to the 3rd MuON symposium in hospital Gelderse Vallei. Keynote speaker Michel van Schaik (Director Rabobank) about Innovation in the care!


12 april 2013: KWF Kankerbestrijding / Alpe d’HuZes has granted the research proposal Netherlands Quality of life and Biomedical Cohort Studies in Cancer (NET-QUBIC).

Marieke de Bruijn will defend her PhD thesis on 10 juni 2013 at 15.45 pm.

Support our bicycle team for Alpe d'HuZes 2013!

On 6 June 2013 our team living together with cancer will cycle the Alpe d'HuZes! This in the fight against cancer. At this moment there is already more than 1500 euro donated. Do you support us too?


The 15th World Congress of Psycho-Oncology and Psychosocial Academy will be held in Rotterdam, 4-8 November 2013. www.ipos-society.org/ipos2013/.


29 January 2013. Pink Ribbon has granted a project to develop and evaluate an online training for cancer patients with insomnia (Annemieke van Straten), and a project to develop and evaluate a breast cancer module for the OncoKompas (Nelly van Uden).


Charity Symposium "Living with cancer"

On December 19, 2012 there will be a Symposium ''Living with Cancer''. This is a charity symposium on meaning centered psychotherapy for cancer patients. Read more about it at the tab News at the left.


15 November 2012: Hoe?Zo! Radio interview with Irma Verdonck on stress and cancer.


October 2012: Interview with Irma Verdonck in Psychologie Magazine.


September 9, 2012. Interview Hans van Willigenburg with Irma Verdonck on Radio 5.


August 2012. Five students finish their MSc thesis and graduate as MSc in Clinical PSychology.


June 28-30, 2012: International symposium on Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC ISOO) at New York. Kevin Yap and Irma Verdonck organise a workshop on e-health and supportive care.


Record for Alpe d'HuZes 2012. The sponsor action Alpe d'HuZes (6 and 7 June) 2012 has already yielded the record amount of 28.5 million euros.


June 6-8, 2012: Our research group contributes to Alpe d'HuZes as volunteers.


April 20, 2012: Nelly van Uden will give a presentation about OncoKompas at a conference about  ICT in health care in Barcelona.


March 16, 2012: NVPO congress in Utrecht, we contribute with 2 oral and 2 poster presentations and a workshop.


January 1, 2012: The project POLARIS project has officially started.


December 22, 2011: Radio program DeGids.fm, Felix Meurders interviews Corien Eeltink on sexuality and cancer. 


November 2, 2011: KWF / Alpe d'HuZes funds a grant for the development and evaluation of an online intervention for informal caregivers of cancer patients.


October 30, 2011 In the national television program "Gesprek op 2", Daphne Bunskoek interviewed Irma Verdonck on living with cancer.


October 28, 2011: www.oncokompas.nl is online!


October 23, 2011: Alpe d'HuZes hands over more than 20 million euros to the Dutch Cancer Society!



Team work

Our research projects are embedded in the two largest research institutes of VU University in Amsterdam: VUmc CCA-VICI (Cancer Center Amsterdam) www.vumc.nl/afdelingen/CCA-V-ICI/ and EMGO+ (Institute for Health and Care Research emgo.nl

We work closely with patients and their caregivers and with researchers and physicians at VU University and VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam and other research institutes and hospitals in the Netherlands and worldwide. Team work is crucial  improving research and translating results into clinical practice.

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