Cancer Core Europe: where did it come from and what is its future?

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Published: 4 Dec 2015
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Prof Julio Celis - Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark

Prof Celis discusses the background to the groundbreaking new initiative, Cancer Core Europe, which came out of the EurocanPlatform project. He also explores how sustainable the collaboration will be now it has been running for one year, how they intend to attract additional funding plus its overall benefits for the European cancer community.

EurocanPlatform is an EC funded project bringing together 23 European cancer institutions and organisations to work together in a unique collaboration. The centres are sharing infrastructures and collaborating on projects to help advance cancer research and treatment.

For more information on initiatives coming out of the project, learn more about Cancer Prevention Europe or read the news story.

5th Annual EurocanPlatform Meeting

Cancer Core Europe: where did it come from and what is its future?

Prof Julio Celis - Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark

What were the original aims of the EurocanPlatform project and how much of this has been achieved over the last five years?

The idea with the EurocanPlatform is to structure translational cancer research in Europe in the areas of prevention, early detection, therapeutics and outcomes research. That was the mission that we had and, of course, we were very interested not only in just creating a platform but to create a virtual European cancer institute.

What we have done during the five years, many things, the most important one, of course the crucial one, is Cancer Core Europe. Now this is a great example of how leaders within the scientific community have been able to move the idea, a diffuse idea, into an object that everybody could see and they can move. Now, the other great advantage was the fact that these centres will demand themselves to start the process, that’s something I have never seen before. I can see now the Cancer Core Europe will be one of the most important things to happen in cancer research in the last years and I think it will be the basis for building up what is going to happen in the future.

What has the EurocanPlatform project achieved in terms of sustainability?

The main thing was to get sustainability for this platform for translational research which now has been converted into Cancer Core Europe. Later on, of course, there will be other like prevention, early detection and outcome research that could actually be together to perhaps make this European institute for cancer research.

Achieving sustainability for the Cancer Core Europe will be a major problem and I think if you don’t have sustainability then of course you’re not going to have a long-term future, the vision of how you’re going to go further on. When the Cancer Core was created it was partly in some way promoted by the idea that unless the centres themselves do something to begin with, it would be very difficult to start the process. Now once they decide themselves to put the resources and the money to be able to create this, then of course the next question is how are we going to make this sustainable. As you know, 5% of the money for community research is in the Commission but 95% of the money remains in the member states. So if we are going to make sustainable in some way we have to get some of the member states to become champions for this idea so that they compromise themselves to put resources so that this can be perpetrated for several years. To be able to get that you really have to structure yourself, you have to make a legal structure, a legal framework and you have to structure everything. Once you achieve that then you can go and sit with the member states and say, ‘Well now this is where we are, we have put everything we could do to make sure that this could be a success in the future, can you really help us to achieve this sustainability by providing the resources that are needed?’ My impression is that Cancer Core has been so engaged into developing their ideas that I think this is going to happen. It’s a question of being patient but it’s a question of time.

What do you think the eventual benefit will be?

If you’re going to structure translational research then of course the quality of what is going to be delivered to the patient is going to be high. These centres will be able to collaborate with industry, help with the development of new treatment, diagnostics. And also, of course, they would serve to train other people from outside the centres. So in the long run it’s only a winning situation for the healthcare system, especially that these are centres, some of them comprehensive cancer centres, where they have research, education, treatment and care. So they have everything there so they can link research with the healthcare system.

What is the take-home message?

The most important thing of it is that we have started something very diffuse and we learned that it’s the engagement, your own engagement, by putting your resources, expertise into the idea is very important. This actually requires leaders. You’re not going to be able to achieve many things if you don’t have leaders that really show the direction of it. I think to me this has been a clear example how you convert a diffuse idea into an object of desire, both for political powers and for the pharmaceutical industry. So once you achieve that then everybody wants to be part of it. So my feeling is that Cancer Core Europe will become sort of a vacuum where everything is attracted to it because of the possibilities that are going to be there in the future.