told that you have cancer is shocking and frightening, but many types
of cancer don't carry the automatic death sentence they did 20 years
ago. We now know what causes many cancers, and we are much better at
recognising and treating them.
In the whole of Europe, although about 160 000 women are diagnosed with
breast cancer every year, more than 70% of them are still alive and
well five years later. But survival rates for other cancers - of the
pancreas, lung and stomach, for example - are low. Cancer continues
to claim lives and cause great suffering. It is still a major challenge
for medicine in the 21st century.
has central facilities that are helping cancer researchers to get the
most from their time and funding. The European Organisation for Research
and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Data Center, supported by the Commission
since its establishment in 1978, is a focus for teams testing new cancer
treatments. The centre gives advice on trial design and data management
and helps groups to present and publish their results. Another, the
European Cancer Resources Bank, grows living cancer cells from a huge
number of different types of cancer and supplies them through a catalogue
to cancer teams all over Europe.
Communication networks between researchers, hospitals and GPs are spreading
knowledge quickly and effectively and also making new types of study
possible. A Europe-wide project to study clustering in cases of childhood
leukaemia is collecting statistics from a wide geographical area to
discover if such clusters are due to chance, to a viral infection, or
to exposure to something in the environment. Another project dependent
on European cooperation is investigating ways to prevent colon cancer,
one of Europe's biggest cancer killers.
Breast cancer - Prevention and heredity
Screening women for breast cancer helps to catch the disease at an
early stage. This is important for every woman but particularly so
for women who have a strong family history of breast cancer. Since
1992, a large EC funded research project has been studying the risk
of breast cancer in women who carry the BRCA1 gene.
European Cancer Resources Bank -
A data base of cells
The European Cancer Resources Bank has increased its lines of rare cancer
cells and it is now possible to obtain cells from cancers that have
occurred in different members of the same family - an invaluable tool
for teams studying hereditary cancers.
Childhood leukaemia can now be treated very effectively using modern
drugs. European researchers are trying to indentify possible environmental
factors that might cause clusters of leukaemia cases.
A neutron treatment for cancer
Four groups of ten patients, all with particularly malignant brain tumours,
have been treated using a new form of radiotherapy. This first clinical
trial of boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) is the result of 10 years'
co-operation between the best European specialists. This advance in
radiotherapy was made possible with the technical and scientific support
of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) at Petten in the Netherlands.