Research projects

From time to time, we plan specific research projects to study topics of high interest in more detail. Sometimes these only concern a subset of childhood cancer survivors, e.g. those who live in a particular region, had a particular tumor or received a particular treatment.
Our ongoing and completed research projects are described below.


Ongoing Research Projects

Pulmonary late effects after childhood cancer (Pulmo Study)

Cancer treatments can lead to lung problems both during and after the therapy. These lung problems often go unnoticed because the lungs can compensate for limitations for a long time. Special lung function tests are harmless and painless examinations and can detect early lung changes.

In the Pulmo Study, we analyse lung function tests routinely performed in the clinical follow-up care of children and adolescents who survived cancer. The study started in 2022 at the University Hospital in Bern and has since been expanded to University Hospitals in Basel and Geneva. We aim to identify patients prone to developing lung diseases and determine the potential risk factors. By doing so, we hope to improve care provided to former pediatric cancer patients, ultimately improving their long-term quality of life.

This project is funded by the Swiss Cancer Research (KFS-5302-02-2021). Prof Claudia Kuehni, MD leads the project in collaboration with pediatric oncologists and pulmonologists.

For more information, please contact Christina Schindera, MD, PhD (christina.schindera@unibe.ch) or Maša Žarković (masa.zarkovic@unibe.ch).


Community-based screening program for hearing loss after childhood cancer (HEAR Study)

Hearing loss can impact the education, social life, and overall well-being of childhood cancer survivors. This issue can arise during cancer treatment or many years later. Because of this, regular hearing tests are recommended for individuals who had treatments that might affect their hearing.

Our project introduces an easy and low-threshold method for former patients to get their hearing tested, meaning hearing tests at local hearing aid shops. We used surveys, interviews, and group discussions with all stakeholders (survivors, hearing aid shop employees and physicians), to find out how feasible this approach could be to supplement existing follow-up care programs.

The low-threshold approach is supposed to be cost-efficient and should entail a minimal burden to former patients. Its aim is to further improvements in cancer treatment, long-term follow-up care and quality of life of childhood cancer survivors.

This project is funded by the Swiss Cancer League (HSR-4951-11-2019). Prof Claudia Kuehni, MD leads the project in collaboration with pediatric oncologists and ENT specialists.

For more information, please contact Philippa Jörger (philippa.joerger@unibe.ch).


Cardiovascular Late Effects after Childhood Cancer (CardioOnco Study)

The CardioOnco Study aims to detect heart problems early and to investigate possible risk factors. It uses regular heart ultrasound and also a novel technique, called speckle tracking ultrasound. Speckle tracking has been shown to detect heart problems earlier in adult cancer patients compared to regular heart ultrasound.

This study is conducted as part of regular clinical care in the outpatient clinics of participating centres. It started in 2017 at the University Hospital in Bern and since 2021 has been expanded to additional clinical centres across Switzerland. We hope that we will contribute to earlier detection of heart disease in the future, e.g., by implementing the speckle tracking technique into clinical care, and prevent more severe heart problems, such as heart failure or heart attack in childhood cancer survivors.

This project is funded by Swiss Cancer Research (KFS 5027-02-2020) and the Stiftung für krebskranke Kinder, Regio basiliensis (#2021-F003). Christina Schindera, MD, PhD, leads the project.

For more information, please contact Christina Schindera, MD, PhD (christina.schindera@unibe.ch) or consult the website of the study.


Genetic Risks for Childhood Cancer Complications Switzerland (GECCOS)

The GECCOS study uses genetic samples from former patients to investigate whether certain people have a higher risk of late effects than others. The findings will help to change the treatment of particularly susceptible patients or to adapt follow-up care.

The GECCOS study is a collaboration of the Universities of Bern and Geneva as well as the Children’s Hospitals of Bern and Geneva. It is funded by the CANSEARCH Foundation, Geneva. Prof Marc Ansari, MD leads this project.

For more information, please contact Nicolas Waespe, PhD (nicolas.waespe@unibe.ch).

Completed Research Projects

Dietary intake, overweight, and chronic health problems after childhood cancer

Poor diet and overweight may increase the risk for chronic health problems after cancer treatment, like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. It is therefore important to get a better understanding of what former cancer patients eat. This project studied if some former cancer patients are more likely to have an unhealthy diet or to be overweight than others.

For these purposes, the project analysed information from the SCCSS, the national Childhood Cancer Registry and medical records. Launched in 2015, the projects has been completed in 2022. Our results aimed to benefit the development of diet recommendations and measures of weight management for former cancer patients.

The project has been funded by Swiss Cancer Research (grant number: KFS-4722-02-2019), the Swiss Cancer League (grant number: KLS-3644-02-2015), and FORCE (Fondation Recherche sur le Cancer de l’Enfant). Prof Murielle Bochud from CHUV lead this project in collaboration with the Childhood Cancer Research Group in Bern.

Study results

Fabiën Belle-van Sprundel, PhD has published following papers with results from this project: