European cancer centres finally united in long-term collaborative partnerships

Co-ordinated work to aid translational cancer research gives benefits to patients

For many decades, cancer research in Europe has been heavily fragmented and inefficient. Now, long-term collaborations have been generated between cancer centres that will create a new phase of co-operation.

Five years ago, 28 top cancer research institutes and organisations came together in a unique EU-financed collaboration as the ‘EurocanPlatform’ to share infrastructure and work together on projects.

Predicted to increase significantly globally as the population ages, cancer places a substantial burden on healthcare systems, particularly regarding surveillance and recurrent treatment. ‘We’re faced with this growing cancer burden and, at the same time, we’re confronted with the spiralling costs of cancer treatment and care,’ says Christopher Wild, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). ‘There is now an urgent need to meet these challenges by developing long-term strategies to speed up the translation of basic discoveries into clinical and preventive applications,’ he added.

Moving to personalised medicine will lead to challenges requiring a link to digital technology, and new legal and ethical standards to support international collaborations and the compilation of data will be required. There is a need for cancer care that is innovative and cost-effective, and the cancer community needs to give advice and support.

Now in its final months, the EurocanPlatform project has produced some important outcomes that will impact cancer patient outcomes and reduced mortality. Cancer Core Europe (CCE), a recently established long-term initiative between six leading cancer centres from the EurocanPlatform (Institute Gustave Roussy in Paris, Cambridge Cancer Centre, Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Vall D’Hebron Institute of Cancer in Barcelona and the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg) aims to create a single virtual ‘e-hospital’ that will provide powerful translational platforms, inter-compatible clinical molecular profiling laboratories with a robust underlying computational biology pipeline, standardised imaging as well as early clinical trial structures to address personalised cancer medicine.

‘Co-ordinating approaches across centres in cancer prevention is the perfect complement to CCE, giving a symmetrical, sustainable approach to tackling cancer in Europe,’ said Ulrik Ringborg of the Karolinska Institutet: ‘The EurocanPlatform has created a multidisciplinary environment to structure research collaboration between preclinical and clinical cancer research centres for translational research aimed at personalised cancer medicine. We are delighted that the EurocanPlatform has been able to deliver important sustainable outcomes that will strengthen Europe’s ability to innovate in cancer research.’

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