Johan and Pieter

Professor Johan Swinnen is a cancer researcher at the KU Leuven and vice-chairman of the Leuven cancer institute (LKI). He’s also the father of a son with cancer, Pieter. Out of gratefulness to still have Pieter with him today, and out of respect for the courage that cancer patients have to muster every day, Johan undertakes a very special journey.

On Monday, August 21, he’ll start an ultramarathon from the University Hospital Gasthuisberg (Leuven) to Santiago de Compostela. He’ll carry along a backpack filled with letters and messages from people fighting cancer or bearing the consequences. In these letters they can write down their experiences, share their worries or express hope. Relatives and friends of patients are also invited to share their message. Upon arrival, Johan will deliver the messages in a symbolical fashion.

Read more about Johan and Pieter: "Patients inspire cancer researcher to run from Leuven to Compostela."             


With his journey, Johan wants to raise money fort he LKI (Leuven Cancer Institute). You can buy a kilometer of his route, or start your own initiative. More information about sponsoring can be found here.

The runner


Pieter also contributed to this initiative in a special way. He drew a runner that’s the spitting image of his father. 

The runner can be found in all our communication about Letters for Compostela, and also on notebooks and totebags, that are being sold to support the initiative. The proceeds of the sales go directly tot he LKI. For practical reasons, the sales moments will take place in or around Leuven. Keep an eye on our Facebook-page to find out more!

If you want to sell your own notebooks, to (fellow) students, in a youth association, on open house days or another event: we’d love to hear alla bout it! Contact the LKI at +32 34 17 17, or via e-mail:


Upon arrival, Johan will deliver the mail in a symbolical way. More information will follow soon.

Thanks to:  acco leuven    kul    medica leuven    uccll   sancta maria leuven