14 Apr 2008

Improving the coordination of cancer research in Europe

The Eurocan+Plus final report is published today after 2 years of investigation and consultation on Europe-wide cancer research.

The UN's World Health Organisation backed the report through the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), described by IARC head Dr Peter Boyle as "one of the most significant steps Europe can take in its fight against cancer".

Cancer is one of the biggest public health crises facing Europe in the 21st century - one for which it is arguably not currently prepared.

This led the European Parliament, through the Research Directorate of the Commission, to launch the project with the goal of exploring the best way to improve cancer research coordination in Europe.

It became the largest Europe-wide consultation ever conducted, involving researchers, cancer centres and hospitals, administrators, health care professionals, funding agencies, industry, patients' organisations and patients.

The project first identified barriers to collaboration in research. Cancer research in Europe is of a high standard, but fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain the largest barriers in implementing innovation into cancer care. Furthermore, health inequalities exist between the EU-15 and the New Member States.

The second phase of the Project was to elaborate consensus solutions to overcome these hurdles and obtain better coordination of cancer research activities, identifying six areas:

1. proactive management of innovation, detection, facilitation of collaborations, and maintenance of healthy competition within the European cancer research community;

2. creation of an exchange portal of information for health professionals, patients and policy makers;

3. guiding translational and clinical research including management of networks and a platform of comprehensive cancer centres;

4. coordination of calls and financial management of cancer research projects;

5. organisation of a "one-stop shop" interface between industry and other stakeholders;

6. support of greater involvement of health care professionals in translational research and multidisciplinary training.

And throughout the recommendations, several key aspects had to be kept in mind:

• The proposal needed to be beneficial to all European Member States and not just the (richest) States with the elite cancer centres.
• Provide the know-how to forward patient-oriented cancer control possibilities able to fill the gap between current knowledge and future therapies
• Contribute to the Lisbon strategy by making Europe more innovative and competitive in (cancer) research.



The European Cancer Initiative: a common voice

To effectively implement these solutions, the Eurocan+Plus Project recommends the creation of a European Cancer Initiative (ECI) designed, in the long term, to become the common voice and centralizing point of the cancer research community.

Based in part on the successful model of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), the ECI would be a small, permanent and neutral structure. Among other activities, it would provide a forum where researchers from various backgrounds and countries can meet with other stakeholders including patients, nurses, clinicians, funders and scientific administrators to develop priority programmes to make Europe more competitive in research and more focused on the cancer patient.

Creation of the ECI is likely to some time, but some t