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World Cancer Day 2014: EU Research to Fight Cancer

According to most recently published data, there were an estimated 1.4 million new cases of cancer in men and 1.4 million in women in the EU in 2012. In the same year, approximately 707 000 men and 555 000 women died from cancer. Although significant advances are being made in the fight against the disease, cancer remains a key public health concern and a tremendous burden on European societies. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the European Union – a figure that is expected to rise due to the ageing European population.

Where does the EU come into the picture? To mark World Cancer Day 2014 (4 February), here is a quick look at what the EU is doing in the field of cancer research.

 

The EU invests over €200 million per year in cancer research.

The EU is an important cancer research funder. During the past seven years, the EU has invested more than €1.4 billion in international collaborative research, frontier research, mobility programmes, public-private partnerships and coordination of national cancer research efforts.

More than half this budget - € 770 million - has been used to encourage key players from across Europe and beyond to join forces in 'collaborative research projects', to find new ways to fight cancer and help patients. These projects help us better understand how various types of cancer develop, how they can be diagnosed earlier and treated more successfully.

For instance, the EU-funded RATHER project is delivering a proof-of-concept for novel therapeutic interventions, together with matched personalised diagnostic approaches for 'triple negative' and 'invasive lobular' breast cancers. RATHER has initiated a phase I/II clinical trial to examine patient responses to a novel drug in a clinical setting.

The application of nanotechnology in medicine (nanomedicine) also creates new opportunities for early diagnosis and therapy of cancer. The EU-funded projects NAMDIATREAM and SaveMe develop nanotechnology-based diagnosis and therapy for cancer.

Clinical trials to validate new cancer medicines and treatments are also at the core of the EUROSARC network, which focuses on rare malignant tumours affecting soft- and bone tissues. For this project, working across the whole of Europe is the only way to recruit enough patients in a reasonable timeframe to carry out the tests, something that would not have been possible for one individual country.

Here are two examples of successful, EU-funded cancer research projects:

Photo of two scientists in a lab

Peptide printouts help unravel protein interactions

An EU-funded project has built a 'printer' that can produce protein-type samples to advance healthcare research, particularly diagnostics and drug therapies for virulent diseases such as cancer. The results have already been commercialised, and are being used by scientists.

Illustration of human cells

Fighting cancer by attacking its support network

When we think of cancer we often think of rogue, villainous cells in an otherwise healthy organ. But research is increasingly showing that our bodies are complicit in the disease, providing cancer cells hiding spaces. Scientists are trying to use this knowledge to create a more accurate laboratory model of one particular type of cancer - multiple myeloma - and thus to develop better drugs to treat it.

 

Read more cancer research success stories