Cancer and breakthrough in cancer research

More and more people are getting cancer. The Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital has been conducting research into the life-threatening disease since 1913 and is poised for a breakthrough in the first decade of the 21st century. In 2033, cancer will be a chronic condition and can be cured in almost all cases, say doctors at the hospital that has been facilitating cancer research for more than a century. It almost sounds too good to be true.

Cancer as a fatal disease

Cancer is a fatal disease, but developments in research indicate that by 2033 doctors will be able to combat the disease better. Specialists at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital dare to claim that the disease can be cured. It is expected that 90 percent can be cured or made chronic. The hospital’s researchers made their announcement on June 17, 2013, the day the clinic began celebrating its centenary.


Every tumor is different, no two are alike and the increase in the number of cancer patients continues. According to the figures, one hundred thousand cancer patients are diagnosed every year. In 2020, almost three quarters of a million Dutch people have direct experience with cancer: they have it themselves or they have had it. The advance of cancer seems unstoppable.

Cancer research

Cancer research underwent enormous development at the beginning of the 21st century. The researchers understand more and more about the events in the cell and why things sometimes go wrong in that cell. With modern techniques and science, researchers can penetrate to the core of cancer. This also showed that no two tumors are alike. One patient’s breast cancer does not look like another’s and the same applies to lung cancer and colon cancer. Every patient has his own personal form of the disease and the treatment can be adjusted accordingly. In the early days of the clinic, patients underwent surgery or radiation, but almost always the diagnosis of cancer was also a death sentence.

Breakthrough and DNA

In the 1970s, more knowledge was gained about the disease, when it was discovered that cancer was caused by damage to DNA. At that time, research was done in draughty offices. It was not until the 1980s that the clinic grew into a globally respected center for cancer research and treatment. One of the major discoveries is breast-conserving surgery for women with breast cancer. Since then, research has progressed by leaps and bounds. Nowadays, about half of the number of cancer patients survive and that number will increase drastically, the clinic expects. In June 2013 there is even talk of the eve of a revolution. Research into unraveling the DNA of tumors is important in this context.

The unraveling
At the beginning of 2018, researchers at T U Delft announced that they had unraveled the DNA mystery. They know more and more about how the cell is constructed. This knowledge helps in understanding diseases such as cancer. If something goes wrong in the cell, it can grow uncontrollably and cause a tumor to develop.


Tumor bank

The Antoni van Leeuwenhoek is setting up a tumor bank. Material is collected from as many patients as possible to create a genetic fingerprint of the tumor. Examination of that material will reveal the specific abnormalities of each tumor, which forms the basis for treatment tailored to that patient. In this way, the Netherlands Cancer Institute believes it will be able to provide effective treatment for 90% of all cancers by the middle of the 21st century. The basic principle is that every tumor has an Achilles heel.

Establishment of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital

The founders of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital believed in 1913 that cancer research and treatment should take place in one clinic. The specialists wanted to better understand the disease and treat it better. That approach turned out to be a formula for success. Since then, great strides have been made in cancer research and in developing the best treatment. Five hundred researchers work in the hospital.

Treatment methods

Cancer research continues to advance. New discoveries are being made and new treatment options are being developed. Scientific research can now get to the heart of cancer. The specific abnormalities in the tumor’s DNA can now be identified, making it possible to prescribe targeted medications. The clinic thus provides personal treatment or tailor-made therapy.


The centenary of the clinic is used to campaign and raise money for even more cancer research and even better treatments. The clinic wants to offer each patient individual treatment and this requires specialists and advanced equipment that cost a lot of money. The Dutch Cancer Institute Association was founded on October 10, 1913. The Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital therefore opted for the groundbreaking route in which research was combined with treatment.

Friend of Antoni

The work of the clinic can be supported, among other things, with an annual contribution of 25 euros. You become a ‘Friend of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’ and receive the quarterly magazine ‘Antoni’.

Anthony van Leeuwenhoek

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek lived in the 17th and 18th centuries (he was 91 years old) and was, among other things, the inventor of the microscope. The Antoni van Leeuwen Hospital, specialized in oncology, is named after him.

Source: Antoni van Leeuwenhoek logo

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital

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  • 1006 BE Amsterdam
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  • Plesmanlaan 121
  • 1066 CX Amsterdam


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