Growing patient populations and multidisciplinary approach in BNN hospitals (press release Máxima Medical Centre)

Adrenocortical cancer patients live longer after undergoing surgery in specialised hospitals

The adrenal gland is an important hormone-producing organ which, like any other organ, can develop cancer. Adrenocortical cancer is relatively aggressive and the chance of recovery depends largely on whether and how the cancer has metastasised and whether the tumour can be completely removed. Medical research by PhD candidate Thomas Kerkhofs of the Máxima Medical Centre has found that patients with non-metastatic adrenocortical cancer (stages I-III) live longer if they undergo surgery at a specialised hospital affiliated with the Bijnier Netwerk Nederland (Dutch adrenal gland network, BNN).

Kerkhofs received his PhD on Thursday from Maastricht University. One possible explanation for this important difference is a multidisciplinary approach in all stages of oncological treatment, which is standard in BNN hospitals, paired with medicinal treatment following a successful operation. Approximately twenty patients are diagnosed with adrenocortical cancer each year, which makes this a relatively rare form of cancer. Kerkhofs' research found that treating these patients in a specialised hospital contributes to a longer life expectancy

Urine tests

Kerhofs also examined a diagnostic tool that uses a urine test to distinguish between benign and malignant tumours in the adrenal gland. This relatively cheap and harmless urine test is a promising diagnostic tool to detect cancer in the adrenal gland. Kerkhofs and his PhD supervisor Harm Haak therefore advocate the inclusion of a urine test in the diagnostic process to detect adrenal gland tumours.

European expertise centre on adrenocortical cancer

Harm Haak is a PhD supervisor and professor at Maastricht UMC+ and an endocrinologist at MMC. He has carried out extensive national and international research on adrenal tumours. In 2004, he co-founded the Bijnier Netwerk Nederland, a collaboration between endocrinologists, surgeons, pathologists and oncologists from Máxima Medical Centre and other specialised academic hospitals around the country. This network combines and enhances scientific research and expertise in this field. MMC is the leading regional centre for the southeast Netherlands and functions as a tertiary referral facility for other centres.

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