When a child loses its endocrine balance

Hanneke van Santen

Van Santen: “An optimal endocrine balance in childhood is necessary for adequate growth and development into adulthood, for recovery from illness and for fully participating with peers. When a child loses its balance, due to oncological or other disease, the pediatric endocrinologist wants to restore this." On October 8th , Hanneke van Santen held her mini-inaugural lecture in honor of her appointment as associate professor within Child Health.

The greatest challenge is to restore hypothalamic imbalance that can arise in children during or after the treatment of suprasellar tumors such as craniopharyngioma, low grade glioma or germinoma. When the tumor is located in or near the hypothalamus, severe hypothalamic dysregulation can develop which, in addition to failure of the pituitary gland, can also cause serious disturbances of the water and salt- balance and of the metabolism resulting in morbid obesity. It is not yet possible to prevent or treat this imbalance, which can greatly disrupt the lives of children and parents.

An example of a more subtle imbalance is the late endocrine damage that can occur after treatment for childhood cancer. Due to the fact that it is sometimes difficult to recognize, delay in diagnosis and (unnecessary morbidity) occurs. How, who and when to screen and how to treat this imbalance are important aspects of research." 

Hanneke illustrated her research questions and goals for the coming years using 4 patient stories. She has shown that the lessons learned are not only applicable to the children with cancer, but also to other serious or chronic diseases in childhood. Multidisciplinarity, collaboration and building bridges are of great importance in this.

Hanneke van Santen, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Wilhelmina Children's Hospital (WKZ), is in addition to PI in Child Health, also co-PI in the Princess Maxima Center for pediatric oncology. A good example of the fantastic collaboration between both centers.