VACANCY for PhD researcher sCANsens project

June 18, 2021

Fulltime (100%) PhD researcher for the FWO project: sCANsens: Identifying biomarkers for chronic pain after breast cancer treatment at the University of Antwerp. 

About the research group

The project is a collaboration between the department of Rehabilitation Sciences of the University of Antwerp, MOVANT research group (Prof. Mira Meeus, Prof. An De Groef), the Breast Clinic of the Antwerp University Hospital (Prof. Wiebren Tjalma, Prof. Peter van Dam) and the radiology department of the Antwerp University Hospital (Dr. Thijs Vande Vijvere, Prof. Pieter Van Dyck and Prof. Sven Dekeyzer).

The central research theme of MOVANT is rehabilitation and movement. This specific project fits in the focus domain ‘MoveAdapt – Measuring and improving adaptation’. The focus of MoveAdapt is threefold:

  • Screening, assessment and evaluation of adaptation processes in a biopsychosocial way by using comprehensive tools (e.g. Quantitative Sensory Testing, brain imaging, patient reported outcomes)
  • Studying mechanism of adaptation processes following the input-processing-output framework (e.g. coping mechanisms)
  • Improving management (treatment and prevention) of patients with disorders, including oncology populations, in adaptation processes (input-processing-output)

About the project

Up to 40% of women experience chronic pain after treatment for breast cancer, and this pain is often very disabling. However, chronic pain after breast cancer remains under-recognised and undertreated. An effective and patient-tailored approach of (chronic) pain

after breast cancer indeed requires a thorough knowledge and evaluation of the pain. In daily clinical practice, however, guidelines for a comprehensive diagnosis of pain in cancer patients and survivors are lacking. Further research in this topic is crucial for an efficient, preventive as well as curative, approach of pain after breast cancer. Besides the high relevance and the important impact of pain in this population, the breast cancer population is also an ideal population to study chronic pain and its natural time course in different stages, since most patients start pain-free, but almost half of them end up with chronic pain.

Therefore, this study aims to map biomarkers (both predictive, prognostic and diagnostic) or chronic pain after breast cancer treatment. We will study possible biopsychosocial biomarkers in relation to (chronic) pain and monitor their temporal changes from the moment of diagnosis until 1 year after surgery. The potential biomarkers are situated within the medical imaging of the brain (evaluated using MRI), measurements of pain sensitivity (evaluated using Quantitative Sensory Testing) and psychological variables (evaluated using self-reported measures).

Your profile

  • You have a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, Master of Science in Medicine or a Master in Science degree in the field of health care or will obtain this degree before October 2021.
  • A highly motivated, enthusiastic, critical and creative individual to join our team.
  • You are interested in scientific research and motivated to start a PhD. You have already built up a good study and internship curriculum.
  • You enjoy working with patients in collaboration with a team of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and researchers.
  • You are Dutch-speaking, fluent in English and have good communication skills. 
  • You have organizational skills, are accurate and eager to learn.
  • Flexible attitude

We offer

  • A dynamic research group with international expertise in the field pain neuroscience and clinical oncological (after)care that will guide you in this project.
  • A creative environment with a study team, post-doctoral researchers, doctors and supervisors to carry out data collection and scientific tasks.
  • Contractual appointment in a PhD fellowship status for a period of 2 years, renewable with 2 years upon positive evaluation
  • You will take on limited tasks of teaching and research support.

Starting date: Autumn 2021 (based on availability)

Submit a motivated application with CV by e-mail to and no later than 1 August 2021. We invite suitable candidates for (online) selection interviews on 19 August 2021 in the morning.