Teuwen and his group develop algorithms that can aid early detection and treatment of cancer. "Consider breast cancer. A mammogram can be hard to read. Only highly specialized radiologists are able to, although even they may overlook the smaller abnormalities. Radiologists may have trouble detecting whether a tumor is aggressive and dangerous, or if it has a slower growth pattern and therefore won't require immediate surgery. We already have algorithms that can see things that people can't. These algorithms can support radiologists when deciding whether someone will need to have surgery, or if increased screenings could suffice."
Teuwens algorithms are image guided. "They usually analyze CT or MRI scans, or a combination thereof." They can evaluate static images such as mammograms, but can also supply real time information. Teuwen: "Imagine wanting to irradiate a tumor in the lungs. Breathing causes the tumor to shift, which means that the radiation will have to be delivered to a larger area, affecting healthy tissue. Having the support of an algorithm as a second pair of eyes that can control the radiation equipment may avoid damaging the healthy tissue."
Teuwen's strongest point as an algorithm expert is his collaboration with clinicians. "Together we can find solutions for problems that significantly impact cancer patients. I love that, I enjoy working with people with very different backgrounds." As a reply to the unavoidable question - when does he suspect to have created a groundbreaking new algorithm - he says: "That's exactly why I came to the Netherlands Cancer Institute. I can dedicate myself to exploratory research in order to answer an important oncological question. I found the freedom to work towards becoming the world's expert in something, without having to announce constant milestones, like people working for businesses. I'll hit road blocks, but what they will be, I don't know…"
It is clear that Teuwen won't let anything get in his way. He studied math because he felt like he didn't understand it. "I wanted to get better at math because it's such a fundamental aspect of science." Then he applied for a vacancy he didn't understand, with great success. Banks and insurance companies won't get a hold on this employee.
- View a video about Jonas Teuwen and his work.