Heleen Van Der Biest

CRIG member
Heleen Van Der Biest

Doctoral fellow – Ghent University, Department of Head and Skin @GUSTAVO and
                                Department of Information Technology – Hearing Technology @WAVES
Ghent University Hospital, Department of Ear, Nose and Throat, Belgium 
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UGent
Principal investigators: Prof. Ingeborg Dhooge (MD, PhD) , Prof. Sarah Verhulst (PhD) & Prof. Hannah Keppler (MD, PhD)


Research focus

For a number of solid malignancies, platinum-derivates are the backbone of treatment. Although cisplatin is a highly effective anti-cancer drug, adverse effects such as ototoxicity or neurotoxicity can sometimes limit its use. The incidence of cisplatin-induced ototoxicity has been estimated to range between 40 and 80%, resulting in bilateral permanent or sometimes progressive sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) and tinnitus. Carboplatin has long been considered less ototoxic than cisplatin. Reports on the incidence of carboplatininduced hearing loss range from 7% to 15% when evaluated with pure-tone audiometry. However, recent animal-research studies have shown that carboplatin induces selective damage to the inner hair cells and auditory nerve fibers, i.e., cochlear synaptopathy. Patients report tinnitus and a decreased ability to understand speech in a noisy environment. 
Permanent SNHL caused by ototoxic drugs can have serious professional, educational, and social consequences that impair quality of life, integration and participation in the society during and after cancer treatment. Next to hearing problems, balance complaints are reported in these patients. These complaints, however, are too often attributed to general weakness or neurological side effects, without evaluating the vestibular system. Research regarding vestibulotoxicity in humans is sparse, but has been reported in animal studies. 
Our multidisciplinary research aims to

  • evaluate the impact of platinum-derivates on audiological tests;
  • develop an optimized test battery for screening the hearing- and vestibular system;
  • initiate a personalized therapeutic approach that includes teaching communication strategies, providing auditory and balance training and fitting hearing aids if needed.


Heleen Van Der Biest is a PhD student at Ghent University. She is conducting research on the impact of platinum-derivates on the auditory and vestibular system. Though a longitudinal research approach, she aims to acquire insight into the progression of ototoxicity and vestibulotoxicity. Additionally, she collaborates with American professor David Moore on the validation of a screening questionnaire focusing on hearing, tinnitus and balance complaints both during and after chemotherapy. In 2023, she received the Susan Small Student Award at the IERASG congress in Cologne for her presentation titled: “Platinum-induced ototoxicity: potential biomarkers of cochlear synaptopathy”.

Contact & links

  • Lab address:Department of Ear, Nose and Throat, Corneel Heymanslaan 10, 9000 Ghent
  • WAVES  
  • LinkedIn  
  • Ghent Auditory Science Platform (GASP)
  • Movie of Heleen Van Der Biest, made in the context of Science Figured Out, introducing her research project on the impact of chemotherapy on hearing and balance
  • Heleen Van Der Biest is interested to receive invitations for talks or presentations