EurocanPlatform - building a platform for translational research

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Published: 20 Oct 2011
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Prof Ulrik Ringborg - Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

EurocanPlatform is an EC funded project, bringing twenty-eight European cancer institutions and organisations together to work in a unique collaboration. The project aims to build a virtual platform for
translational cancer research to better link pre-clinical and clinical cancer centres.The centres will share infrastructures and collaborate on projects to help advance cancer research and treatment.

Prof Ulrik Ringborg discusses the EurocanPlatform, and stresses the need for a greater degree of resources and clinical trials result sharing within Europe. He outlines his hopes for future collaborations between academia, healthcare institutes and industry.

European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC) 2011, 23-27 September, Stockholm

EurocanPlatform – building a platform for translational research

Professor Ulrik Ringborg – Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


Professor Ringborg, Ulrik, you’re at home here in Stockholm, you didn’t need to travel very far to the ECCO meeting and we’re agreed it’s a good meeting.

Absolutely, I think from my point it’s the best ECCO meeting with a lot of interesting topics, good speakers. The meeting is also very well organised.

Yes, it is indeed. You wouldn’t expect anything else in Stockholm, of course.

Oh, you are quite right.

Now Ulrik, you’re leading this very important EurocanPlatform project, the FP7 project; it’s been running now for six months. First of all, can you tell people who have not heard about it what it is?

It’s an EU projecting aiming at building a European platform for translational cancer research. Why are we preparing such a platform? That is to have better translational research linking pre-clinical and clinical cancer centres and also work with the clinical cancer centres to decrease the fragmentation between the clinics and the research party. The second thing is to create the critical mass for an advanced, innovative translational cancer research.

So the partners are mostly comprehensive cancer centres?

We have 23 cancer research centres and the majority are clinical centres. We have five cancer organisations, ECCO is one, OECI is one, EORTC is one, etc.

And when you’re talking about building platforms of translational science, you’re meaning physical platforms or virtual platforms?

It’s a virtual platform, absolutely. It’s a virtual platform because the research is needing a large number of patients since we are approaching smaller and smaller patient populations, the cancer patients are more and more rare patients. We need the biological materials and the advanced technological resources are not distributed to all centres so we have to share them. So all centres have patients, biological materials, competence to run clinical trials but not all have the technological resources.

But between those 23 partners we have got a massive resource. This is critical mass times ten, is it not?

Sure, sure.

And that’s part of the idea.

Yes, you are quite right. We have resources in terms of patients, biological materials, technological resources and competency but there are also big resources regarding financial support. One part, and what is wanted from the European Commission, is that we better co-ordinate the economic resources.

So you’re telling me there has been competition in the past between these big blue chip institutes?

Yes.

Yes, OK. I have to get it up front, Ulrik. So it’s about time we started sharing and communicating and a little bit less competition. So six months into the project, how do you feel as the project leader? You think it’s coming together?

Yes, I think so. I think the enthusiasm is good, we have started work in all work packages, some are a little bit far ahead, others are a little bit behind depending upon the complexity and the work. We are now setting up a trial, clinical trials, and are discussing. We have had two interesting meetings in Paris regarding the ways to proceed in order to run innovative clinical trials and aiming at the end to run molecular pathways during the clinical trials, bringing in advanced technologies in genomics and other types of methods to pinpoint different molecular pathways.

So, so far, so good.

Yes.

And it’s a four year project so we’ve got three and a half years to go and the hope is that if we…

It’s five years.

It’s a five year project. So we’re hoping that at the end of four and a half years from now we’re going to have a really strong, integrated European resource to take on the next generation of projects.

That is what the European Commission expects, so one part of our mission is to make this structure sustainable. Therefore we have in one separate work package a lot of work going on to do it. We need, for instance, to bring in money for research on the platform; if you have the money that will make it easier to have the sustainability. We are involved very much in oncopolicy questions because the European Commission is moving towards the innovation union and the Next Frame Programme and we try to be helpful here with ideas and information. An interesting thing, I think, is that we have been offered an opportunity in collaboration with the journals to arrange the European programme on oncology where we would discuss sustainability questions, meaning that we would like to have newer and more efficient collaborations between academia, healthcare systems and the industry with a first meeting which will take place in May next year.

Fantastic, good. Ulrik, you’re doing a great job. Thank you very much indeed for leading EurocanPlatform and thank you for getting us all to come to Stockholm to such an excellent meeting. I appreciate it.

Thank you.