News items Royal decoration for Carla van Herpen

4 February 2023

Carla van Herpen received a royal award from Nijmegen Mayor Hubert Bruls today, Saturday, 4 February, World Cancer Day, during the Gamechanger meeting of the Radboud Oncology Fund.

Mayor Bruls surprised Carla van Herpen, professor of rare cancers and head of the Department of Medical Oncology at the Radboudumc, at the end of the official part of the meeting and pinned on her the decorations belonging to an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.

Carla van Herpen has a tremendous record of service with national and international impact. After completing her medical degree at Radboud University (1989), and training in internal medicine at Canisius-Wilhelmina Hospital and Radboudumc, she became a staff member in the Department of Medical Oncology at Radboudumc in 1997. In 2004, she received her PhD with the thesis: Intratumoral administration of interleukin-12 in head and neck cancer

In 2005, Carla was appointed chief de clinique Medical Oncology. From 2009, she began to focus more on cutting-edge research including new drugs (phase I/early phase II studies) with a special focus on salivary gland cancer and head and neck cancer. Carla wrote more than 220 peer reviewed scientific articles. Since 2015, Carla has been theme leader rare cancers. In 2018, Carla was appointed professor of rare cancers. This made her the first professor in the Netherlands in this field. 

Research on rare cancers

Carla's research focus is on rare cancers. For the patient here, unfortunately, survival is worse than with more frequently occurring tumors. Often this is because there is a delay in getting a proper diagnosis compared to those more frequent forms, there are fewer adequate therapies available, and fewer clinical trials being set up. Carla van Herpen is committed to improving survival and quality of life for patients with rare cancers. She gives special attention to salivary gland cancer and head and neck cancer.

Carla leads a team of physician-researchers within the Radboudumc. She plays an important role in research and national and international knowledge exchange. Finding funds for research is not easy. Nevertheless, Carla always manages to carry out research for the development of medicine or treatment. She has successfully put this rare form of cancer 'on the map'. Through her research, collaborations, commitment and personal attention to her patients, she gives color to personalized care and is seen as an absolute authority in her field.

At the foundation of the patient association

On Carla's initiative, the salivary gland cancer patient association was founded in 2016 together with some patients. Now, six years later, the association stands like a house, patients feel seen and heard and this disease gets the attention it deserves. As a result, more funds are being raised for much-needed research. 
According to the patients, none of this would have been possible without the efforts of 'doctor Van Herpen'. 'She is always there for her patients, gives results almost in real time so patients do not have to wait, accompanies patients in the terminal phase and, if desired, is present at their funerals.' 
Not surprisingly, her patients - without exception - wear Carla on their hands.

Collaborations at home and abroad

Carla van Herpen works frequently and intensively with organizations concerned with cancer, such as IKNL, KWF, the Radboud Oncology Fund and patient associations at home and abroad to draw more attention to research. She is also active within the salivary gland group of the International Rare Cancers Initiative (IRCI). Together with IKNL, a national report on rare cancers was published in 2018. From the recommendations of this report, she initiated the establishment of the Dutch Rare Cancer Platform (DRCP) in 2020 and has chaired it ever since. 

Additional positions

Carla van Herpen also holds a number of national board positions for, among others, the Dutch Society for Medical Oncology (NVMO), the Foundation for Oncological Cooperation (SONCOS) and the Dutch Working Group on Head Neck Tumors (NWHHT); she also co-chaired the regional feasibility working group of the Dutch Clinical Research Foundation (DCRF).

Radboudumc congratulates Carla van Herpen on her appointment as Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.

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Margie Alders


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