Cancer is one of the main causes of death in the EU, responsible for almost 1.3 million deaths in 2013, according to Eurostat. The JRC's work on cancer focuses on developing harmonised data on cancer incidence in the EU, development and provision of certified reference materials for biomarkers for specific cancers and research into medical applications of radionuclides.
Cancer puts a heavy burden on the EU’s health-care system. The EU has set itself a goal to reduce new cancer cases by 15 % by 2020. However inequalities exist within and between EU Member States regarding cancer control and care, resulting in strikingly different mortality rates. One of the milestones towards the successful reduction of the European cancer burden is to ensure accurate and comparable data on cancer incidence, prevalence, cure, survival and mortality in the EU, assuring a cancer information system with comprehensive and standardised information and data on a permanent rolling basis.
The European Commission also offers support for Member State development of screening programmes for breast cancer along evidence-based quality requirements. In this context, the JRC, within the European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer is coordinating the development of breast cancer guidelines and a European quality assurance scheme. Both these tools will be publicly available on the recently launched web hub. It is the gateway for all ECIBC-related information and it aims to provide information to women regarding cancer care compliance with European requirements. In parallel, the JRC also coordinates and supports development of a European cancer registry system, which is built upon the existing experience, competence and cooperation of national and regional cancer registries. A series of factsheets on different types of cancer and their prevalence in the EU member states has been published. The JRC's work on cancer is done in collaboration with the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety.
The JRC also develops certified reference materials for biomarkers for specific cancers. So far a prognostic marker for multiple myeloma (cancer of plasma cells) and a chronic myelogenous leukemia marker have been developed and made available to clinical reference and routine laboratories. The certified reference materials developed by JRC-IRMM, often in co-operation with the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC), are used as an anchor point for worldwide comparability of biomarker diagnostics. In the EU, the thereby established traceability is laid down as requirement in the Directive on In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices (DIR 98/79/EC).
JRC scientists also conduct research into the development of medical applications using radionuclides, namely new cancer and infectious diseases therapies based on alpha irradiation. For example, a previous study looked at the possibility to use alpha radiation for selective killing of bladder tumor cells.