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25Jun 2020

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PhD defense Bruno Vieira: logistical optimization can shorten radiotherapy waiting times

The Corona crisis has been a wake-up call to us all that optimizing the logistics of health care processes can make the difference between life and death. Luckily, radiotherapy treatments for cancer care is not on a crisis management, but optimizing logistics can still make a huge difference to patients. In his PhD thesis, Bruno Vieira, from the Netherlands Cancer Institute, shows how the logistics of radiotherapy treatments can be optimized in such a way that cancer patients benefit from shorter waiting times and more patient-friendly treatments. Good luck, Bruno!

Collage Vieira Bruno Blauw

PhD Thesis: Logistical Optimization of Radiotherapy Treatments.

Read the thesis outline

Promotors: Prof. dr. Wim van Harten (NKI and University of Twente) and prof. dr. ir. Erwin Hans (University of Twente). Co-promotor: dr. Jeroen van de Kamer (NKI).

Thesis defense (online): University of Twente, 26 June, 14.45 h. The defense will be live-streamed via

How to integrate patient preferences in scheduling routines?

Delays in the start of radiotherapy treatment (RT) have been shown to increase the risk of tumour progression in various cancer types. Moreover, patients experience greater psychological distress when subject to longer waiting times. For RT centers, efficient management of patients and resources has become extremely difficult due to such factors as a highly fluctuating patient inflow, specialized care pathways, and the multitude of skills possessed  by staff members. How to optimally allocate staff members to the several tasks involved in radiotherapy? And how to integrate patient preferences into the scheduling routines?

Mathematical programming and industrial engineering

Bruno Vieira looked at these logistical problems and proposed innovative approaches for solving them by combining knowledge from applied mathematics and industrial engineering. He shows, for instance, that through an optimal allocation of radiation therapy technologists, fulfillment of waiting time targets can be increased from 91% to 98% for urgent patients, and from 96% to 100% for regular patients. He also shows that up to 98% of the patients can have their preferences regarding the time of their irradiation sessions satisfied when treatment schedules are optimized using mathematical programming.

Project with six Dutch RT centres

Five years ago, Bruno Vieira, an experienced researcher seeking a PhD in Operations Research with practical applications to healthcare, moved from Porto to Amsterdam to conduct his PhD research in the Wim van Harten group at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. He conducted a 5-year project on radiotherapy logistics in collaboration with 6 Dutch RT centers. After his PhD, Bruno will move to Barcelona to work as a postdoc at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra on the optimization of home care services for elderly people. 'I intend to make use of the knowledge and skills obtained during my PhD trajectory to improve the home and social care services for elderly people through innovative quantitative methods.'

Bruno's research was financed out of a Dutch Cancer Society Grant (KWF 2014-6078).

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