Frank Van den Heuvel

Radiation Therapy Medical Physics Group

Our research group specialises in bringing fundamental physical concepts to enhance everyday clinical practice.

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Ellie Burke
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Research Summary

The main concept we take is a physics approach. The model is used to provide predictions outside of the current measurement set and thereby test the model, which has the minimum number of parameters needed to describe the experimental data. While this is the standard practice of scientific methodology, we keep the ultimate clinical applicability of the concept in mind.

Fundamental concepts: One area of research is a first principle approach to quantifying DNA-damage induction by irradiation with different types of ionising radiation (photon, protons, alpha-particles), in such a way that it can be used in clinically relevant environments. In addition, confounding factors like the level of oxygen (as low oxygen levels confirm radio-resistance) and repair altering chemicals. The models can take these confounding factors into account. Another area of research is the use of the notion of alpha-stable distributions which are used to parametrise treatments and provide mathematical models for the robustness of external beam treatments.

Applied Work: The fundamental work is developed in a number of applied projects using dose calculations (Monte Carlo simulation and biological effects through DNA-damage estimates), imaging using new equipment to allow visualisation of tumour and tumour changes during treatment, and proton therapy. Our group is strongly involved in the building of the proton therapy arm of the Precision Cancer Medicine Institute (PCMI), mainly concentrating on the possibility of low-impact treatments of breast and haematological cancers (Hodgkin's Lymphoma + Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma).

Clinical Implementation: Implementing concepts directly in the clinic where we introduce imaging during treatment to allow physicians to use models based on the change in texture to adapt the treatment using biological quantities (treatment response) rather than only physical ones (patient position, geometry changes). Also the robustness of models allows the planning process to be adapted to provide patient-individualised treatment margins.



Frank Van den Heuvel has been an Associate Professor and senior research scientist at the University of Oxford since 2014. He also holds an honorary appointment at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust where he acts as the Director of Radiation Therapy Medical Physics.  Professor Van den Heuvel obtained a physics degree from the University of Antwerp, Belgium in 1987. He was awarded a doctorate in Physics from the University of Brussels in 1994 where he also took the directorship of the radiotherapy physics department. In 1996 he moved to Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan to become an Associate Professor. In 2005 he moved back to Europe to join the University of Leuven as a Director and Professor of Medical Physics. In 2012 he was elected fellow of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.



Van den Heuvel, F. (2014). A closed parameterization of DNA–damage by charged particles, as a function of energy - A geometrical approach. PLoS One, 9 (10), art.nr. 110333

Van den Heuvel, F., Defraene, G., Crijns, W., Bogaerts, R. (2012). Out-of-field contributions for IMRT and volumetric modulated arc therapy measured using gafchromic films and compared to calculations using a superposition/convolution based treatment planning system. Radiotherapy and Oncology, 105(1), 127-132.

Van den Heuvel, F., Locquet, J., Nuyts, S. (2010). Beam energy considerations for gold nano-particle enhanced radiation treatment. Physics in Medicine and Biology, 55(16), 4509-4520.

Van den Heuvel, F., Fugazzi, J., Seppi, E., Forman, J. (2006). Clinical application of a repositioning scheme, using gold markers and electronic portal imaging. Radiotherapy and oncology, 79(1), 94-100

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