Today, cancer is a significant challenge for society, healthcare systems and the growing number of affected patients and their families. This article argues that new paradigms and conditions for responsible science and innovation policy across the European Union (EU) require (i) the collective action of Research & Development institutions, (ii) a system approach to health systems, higher education and patient organizations, and (iii) new initiatives to encourage international cooperation across an enlarged Europe; no single country can successfully fight the disease(s) on its own.
The increasing cancer burden is one of the leading medical societal challenges today. The number of new cancer patients in Europe is expected to increase from 3.6 (2015) to 4.3 million over the next two decades; it has now reached 3.91 million. Moreover, the number of patients living with a cancer diagnosis is ever increasing, making cancer a significant chronic disease. In Europe, the total number of cancer deaths amounts to 1.94 million annually (Ferlay et al., 2018). So far, the results of our research efforts and their implementation in the healthcare system have been unable to curb this development.
“The Basket of Baskets (BoB) study is the spearhead Program of the Cancer Core Europe (CCE) (Eggermont et al., 2014). Its overall goal is to evaluate the antitumour activity of matched therapies in small CCE patient populations molecularly selected using a novel study design in an international multicentre (basket) approach.”
“Cancer Core Europe is a potential umbrella for bringing together such national networks (see Eggermont et al., 2019), an option that should be explored within the upcoming European research programs, particularly a potential mission in cancer (Celis and Pavalkis, 2017).”
Translational cancer research covers the whole cancer research continuum from basic to preclinical to early clinical, late clinical and outcomes research. Basic-preclinical research is the "engine" for early clinical research bridging the early translational research gap.
By combining innovative prevention and treatment strategies in a sustainable state‐of‐the‐art virtual European cancer centre/infrastructure, it will be possible by 2030 to achieve a long‐term survival of 3 out of 4 cancer patients in countries with well‐developed healthcare systems.
“Cancer Core Europe involves six premier cancer centers in various European countries and is based on the model of a virtual cancer institute. The centers share a harmonized data infrastructure and conduct cooperative biomarker-driven clinical trials in a catchment population of more than 60,000 patients — a model that supports clinical utility.”
Cancer Core Europe provides a great translational platform to bridge the gap from bench-to-bedside and bedside-to-bench, conducting next-generation clinical trials, and discovery of predictive biomarkers and markers to monitor resistance.
Effective treatment of cancer remains one of the biggest medical challenges in the world, due to the large diversity in the spectrum of mutations in individual cancer patients. To tackle this problem, cancer research will need to be performed at a larger scale than is currently possible within single cancer institutes.
“The development of Cancer Core Europe is exciting. The understanding of the science that drives cancer growth is leading to rapid and significant changes in how we need to approach the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients with cancer. If we are to be successful in bringing revolutionary new treatment regimens to patients quickly it will require this kind of collaboration across cancer centres. AZ Oncology looks forward to also collaborating with Cancer Core Europe to help deliver this revolutionary vision."
“Our understanding of cancer is increasing faster than ever before, and over the next decade or so I believe that this will lead to a revolution in how physicians treat patients. This network will lead that revolution.”
Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor of Physic and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine
Cancer is still the illness with the highest mortality rates in the world. Solving this problem requires new strategies, which is why a new European consortium is now being built – Cancer Core Europe – in which six of Europe's most prominent cancer research centres take part. Karolinska Institutet is one of them.