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Oncology-Related Communication Disorders

Oncology-Related Communication Disorders



  • prof. dr. Michiel van den Brekel (NKI/AVL & ACLC), senior researcher, coordinator
  • prof. dr. Olga Fischer (ACLC), senior researcher
  • prof. dr. Frans Hilgers (NKI/AVL & ACLC)
  • dr. Rob van Son (NKI/AVL & ACLC), senior researcher 
  • dr. Anne Bannink (ACLC), senior researcher 
  • dr. Lisette van der Molen (External members: NKI/AVL), senior researcher 
  • Prof. dr. Jean-Pierre Martens (External members: DSSP-ELIS Ghent University), senior researcher
  • dr. Catherine Middag (External members: DSSP-ELIS Ghent University), senior researcher
  • dr. Gwen van Nuffelen (External members: Antwerp University Hospital), senior researcher
  • Klaske van Sluis (NKI/AVL & ACLC), PhD candidate on Rob van Son and Lisette van der Molen’s project September 2015
  • Manon van der Laaken (ACLC), PhD candidate on Michiel van den Brekel’s project September 2016
  • Bence Halpern (NKI/AVL & ACLC), PhD candidate on Michiel van den Brekel and Rob van Son’s project July 2018


One of the key aims of these research projects is to investigate if, and how, speakers learn to compensate for changes in speech and voice as a result of head and neck cancer. It is assumed that physiological limitations constraint certain communicative and language functions, which can impact language behaviour. All research has a clinical focus and there are strong ties between the ACLC and the Netherlands Cancer Institute-Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. There is extensive collaboration with the DSSP-ELIS at Ghent University and the Antwerp University Hospital. This research has six major branches:

  • Phonetics of oncology-related pathological speech
  • Predicting and synthesizing pathological speech
  • Automatic evaluation of oncology-related pathological speech (collaboration with Ghent University)
  • Tele-Health applications and tools for Speech and Language Therapists collaboration with Ghent University and Antwerp University Hospital)
  • Tools and resources for Speech Research and Speech and Language Therapists
  • Conversation analysis of physician-patient interaction

Research projects

PhD projects:

  • Predicting substitute voice source characteristics after laryngectomy. Klaske van Sluis
  • Predicting and synthesizing plausible speech examples after oral cancer treatment. Bence Halpern
  • Physician-Patient communication about quality of life in head and neck cancer consultations.  Manon van der Laaken

Other projects

  • In collaboration with Gent University tools are developed to automatically quantify speech intelligibility and speech quality in patients after treatment. We collaborate with Twente University in the Virtual Therapy project ( As part of this research, we investigate articulatory speech synthesis as a tool to predict speech disorders before treatment starts. The department of Head- and Neck Oncology and Surgery currently receives an unrestricted research grant from Atos Medical (Hörby, Sweden).