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Cancer refers to a group of diseases characterised by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. Cancer and anti-cancer therapies have been researched since the beginning of medicine. Nevertheless, cancer is likely to remain one of the biggest killers of the 21st century.

In 2006 it was estimated that three million new cases were diagnosed and more than 1.5 million people died from cancer in Europe, making it one of the major health issues (see Annals of Oncology, March 2007 18(3):581-592; doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdl498). In recognition of this development, global research efforts to fight cancer have been ongoing since the 1970's to turn this disease into a chronic, instead of a fatal one.

This goal represents a formidable challenge for researchers and clinicians alike. Cancer is a complex disease caused by interactions of multiple factors such as genetic predisposition, environmental and lifestyle influences, infectious agents and ageing. The past years have witnessed a dramatic progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms at work in the transformation of a normal cell into a cancer cell. Yet, our knowledge is still far from complete and much remains to be discovered.

Intensive collaboration among scientific, medical and pharmaceutical communities is thus indispensable. Therefore, collaborative research on cancer has been and remains a high priority in the EU framework programmes.

The EU aims to develop improved patient-oriented strategies for combating cancer - ranging from prevention to more effective and earlier diagnosis, but also better treatment with minimal side effects. In order to achieve practical benefits and improve the quality of life of EU citizens, the EU-supported research focuses on dissecting the causes and mechanism of cancer, translating this basic knowledge into clinical applications and supporting clinical research on new and improved interventions. Other issues related to cancer are also covered, e.g. ageing and cancer, childhood cancers, regional differences, psychosocial aspects, palliative care and guidance to support groups.

The Seventh Framework Programme (FP7; 2007-2013), provides extensive financial support for different areas of collaborative cancer research, ranging from basic to pre-clinical, clinical and 'back-to-the-bench' research. The focus is on disease aetiology, new medicines and therapies; identifying and validating drug targets and biological markers that aid in the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment; and assessing the effectiveness of preventive prognostic, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Up to December 2011 58 projects were funded for EUR 240 million under the thematic "cancer" area. The total EU funding for cancer research in the FP7 Cooperation Programme, taking into account all cancer-related projects, including not only the thematic "cancer" area but also other areas, i.e. diagnostics, nanotechnology, etc. is estimated to be over EUR 500 million. Support will continue in future calls.

In the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6; 2002-2006) the 'Combating Cancer' initiative within the 'Life Sciences, Genomics and Biotechnology for Health' thematic priority resulted in approximately EUR 480 million allocated to 108 translational cancer research projects all over Europe. Although many projects are still ongoing, this already resulted in advances in our understanding of cancer that will help pave the way to new and improved anti-cancer therapies.

Additional information:

Concerning prevention and additional cancer links please see also:

Concerning the European Partnership for Action against Cancer please see also:

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