After more than 30 years of operation, the Oncology Centre (OC) has recently updated its objectives. At an academic level, the OC depends on the faculty of the Free University Brussels. On an administrative and clinical level, the Clinical Unit of the OC is integrated in the UZ Brussel. The Council or Board of directors of the OC is the governing body of the OC. Four cells are functioning in the OC and responsible for the oversight of the respective daily activities: the cell medical policy and care organisation (Clinical Unit), the cell education & training, the cell prevention & screening and the research cell.
The Clinical Unit is embedded in a university hospital and consists of several medical departments and functional entities, namely: medical oncology, radiotherapy, surgical oncology, the breast clinic, familial cancer clinic, hemato-oncology, multiple myeloma center and palliative and supportive care.
Patients are treated in four hospitalisation units: the day clinic, the in-patient unit, the intensive care and stem cell transplantation unit and the radiotherapy department. These entities are complemented by organ-oriented departments in the hospital which take part in the multidisciplinary care of the oncology patients providing the diagnostic expertise and involved in early local treatments and the elaboration of multidisciplinary treatment strategies. These departments are: urology, gynecology, dermatology, abdominal surgery, thoracic surgery, gastroenterology, ENT, neurosurgery, pneumology and pain clinic.
In addition to the medical staff, the cancer center is manned by highly specialized nurses in each department, dieticians and psychologists as well as oncological revalidation and rehabilitation. All workers in the oncology center are involved in the cure and care policy of the centre.
The UZ Brussel has a total of 721 beds. The hospital has a separate hospitalisation unit for medical oncology. It is the only adult in-patient unit where chemotherapy may be administered. This unit consists of 29 beds (nine single rooms, 10 double rooms) and six beds of intensive-care haematology. Ambulatory care is given in the oncology day clinic which comprises 22 places.
The staff comprises of 5 medical oncologists, 10 radiotherapists and several specialists in training. About 30 surgeons are performing surgical oncology.
- Look Good Feel Better programme: This programme is a free, national public service programme that helps cancer patients to improve their appearance and self-image by teaching them hands on beauty techniques to manage the appearance of side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments
- Onco-revalidation: The rehabilitation programme aims to improve the quality of life and functioning of the cancer patient. The programme takes 10-12 weeks and consists of a combination of physical exercise and psychosocial support
- Mindfulness: The mindfulness programme at the UZ Brussel is intended to support rehabilitation and reintegration after cancer treatment. It offers patients a method to play a active role in their stress management, the regulation of emotions and coping with physical symptoms
- Psycho-social guidance by a team of social nurses and psychologists
- Access to activities organised by regional and national cancer organisations
- Informational/educational session for cancer patients
- Day-care centre for supportive and palliative care (TOPAZ)
Areas of specialisation
The centre has several areas of focus and specific expertise, many of which entail a research component: investigations in cancer revalidation and rehabilitation, investigations in methods to measure patient distress; advanced investigations in conformal radiotherapy; investigations in overcoming tumour hypoxia, a major mechanism of treatment resistance; investigations in translational genomics, which should lead to more personalized therapy and avoidance of needless toxicity; investigations in hormonal therapy of breast cancer; investigations in immunotherapy, and in particular cancer vaccination; investigations in hereditary cancer: bow to improve counselling; discovery of novel predisposing mutations and genes; investigations in novel therapies of brain tumours; investigations in cancer in the elderly (onco-geriatrics); investigations in dietary aspects of cancer; investigations in End-of-Life issues.
Palliative and supportive care
The UZ Brussel does not have a separate in-patient palliative care unit. The department of supportive and palliative care consists of a palliative support team (PST) which is engaged as early as possible in the disease process and has an advisory function. The transfer of the responsibility of care from physicians involved in cancer treatment to physicians of the PST is only taken at formal request. The PST consists of four physicians, five psychologists and two social workers. All physicians and psychologists received an additional specialised training with a focus on decision making at the end of life and opportunities in palliative care (LEIF-training = Life's End Information Forum). Members of the PST are also in charge of the day centre, TOPAZ, and the home care team, OMEGA. The cancer centre is manned by specialised (social) nurses in each department, as well as oncological revalidation and rehabilitation. All workers in the oncology center are involved in the cure and care policy of the centre
Prof Dr. Wim Distelmans (Supportive and Palliative Care)