World expert in radiotherapy joins The Christie and The University of Manchester

Press Release Posted 04 June 2015

One of the world's leading experts in radiotherapy, Marcel van Herk (55), has joined The Christie and The University of Manchester to lead cutting edge radiotherapy research. 

As Chair in Radiotherapy Physics, Marcel will work with the Manchester Cancer Research Centre and Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) to lead a team of researchers working on new breakthroughs in radiotherapy.   

He is a world expert in the use of image guidance systems in radiotherapy and writing the complex computer software used in radiotherapy to help see tumours before they are treated. His work over more than 30 years means that millions of people around the word now get more effective radiotherapy.   

He has inspired an entire generation of medical physicists and clinicians, published more than 190 research papers and even had a clinical formula named after him in 2000. The 'Van Herk' formula is still in use around the world today and provides guidance to clinicians and clinical scientists on how to ensure that, for instance, more than 90% of patients receive at least 95% of the prescribed dose of radiotherapy.  

Commenting on his new role, Marcel said: "This is an exciting time to join The Christie and The University of Manchester. Manchester has an incredible reputation around the world for cancer research and for its pioneering world firsts in radiotherapy throughout the last 100 years.  

"With MRI-guided radiation therapy and proton beam therapy coming to The Christie in the next three years, thisis a fantastic opportunity to lead a team of talented radiotherapy researchers. World class research will ensure that patients at The Christie are the first to benefit from new radiotherapy breakthroughs.  

It's wonderful to be joining institutions with world class ambitions, The Christie to be one of the world's top cancer centres and the University of Manchester to be a world class university.   

Marcel is confident that the research work he will be leading can deliver significant patient benefits.  

Although radiotherapy is an established form of treatment for cancer, it is constantly evolving as our understanding of cancer develops and technology improves.  

"For example, in the treatment of gynaecological cancers, the accuracy of the treatment is currently measured in centimetres, but in the foreseeable future it will be measured in millimetres instead. But we have to make sure that improved accuracy also means that the treatment is more effective, and to do this we have to look at every part of the process and identifying how it can be improved."   

Marcel comes from the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), where he has worked for 32 years.   

"Leaving the Netherlands was tough," he said. "I had a great job, but people I knew and respected at The Christie convinced me that coming to Manchester would offer me enormous opportunities to do the kind of research I was interested in. The Christie has a very talented team working hard to improve an already world class radiotherapy service. Leading a team at one of Europe's largest integrated cancer centres was a huge attraction."  

Marcel's interest in science began at a young age when he scoured scrap yards, dismantling and rewiring equipment to build his own computer. He learned how to repair TV sets and had a job as a radio repairman. 

He studied physics at university in the early 1980s, where his interest in medical physics developed and he started as a master student at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in 1982.  

After completing his PhD in early 1992, Marcel spent six months in the USA, working at Harvard Medical School on integrating MR scans in treatment planning before returning to the NKI. For the last ten years he has also held a part-time teaching role as a Professor at the University of Amsterdam.   

Marcel, his wife, and his two children are moving from the Netherlands to Didsbury. In his spare time he listens to music and is a keen walker who is looking forward to exploring the delights of the nearby Peak District and Lake District.

;