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€100 million funding for cancer research

€100 million funding for cancer research: European Week against Cancer 2003

The European Union has pledged €100 million (AU$170 million) towards various cancer research projects, marking the European Week against Cancer which starts on Monday.

Nineteen promising projects have been selected for the funding and will look specifically into the link between genomics and cancer in order to develop imagining, radiotherapy, and clinical trials for breast cancer and leukemia.

The researchers are also planning to develop bio-banks and cancer registers.

A key focus will be to quickly turn the advances in cancer research into practical and meaningful early stage diagnoses and therapies for patients. Cancer has been allocated as a European Research Area of high priority.

“The EU is ready to invest up to €400 million in cancer research over the next four years. But our investments will only bear fruit if researchers and funding agencies from across Europe work together with common goals”, said the European Union’s Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin.

“No single country can work in isolation and European cancer research too often suffers from a duplication of efforts and from a lack of the critical mass.”

“As in other areas of science, a dedicated European Cancer Research Area will be instrumental in turning advances in science into effective early stage diagnoses and therapies for patients and to transform progress in the lab into improvements in clinics – as fast as possible,” said Commissioner Busquin.

All up, the EU has earmarked €1 billion to go towards research into combating major diseases. 40% of these funds will go towards developing better strategies for fighting cancer - from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.

The projects

- Many of the projects selected for EU funding have adopted an approach to cancer that takes genomics as the starting point. Progress in this field has been rapid and the recent sequencing of the human genome is a major step that should provide crucial information to better understand tumour biology. Following this breakthrough, two of the projects will use current innovative oncogenomic technologies to identify novel cancer genes and study their involvement in cancer progression.

- Four projects will try to better understand the molecular pathways involving e.g. oxygen starvation (hypoxia) or the protein p53, which is involved in a large variety of cancers. These projects investigate how molecules can be potential molecular targets for new drugs to alter the development of cancer.

The progress stems from the sequencing of human genome and the consequent identification of alterations linked with cancer.

New techniques for imaging and radiotherapy

Clinical technologies, such as imaging and radiotherapy, will also benefit from advances in research. New imaging techniques should soon assist the practitioner in early diagnosis and treatment.

Three new EU-funded projects will aim at fostering know-how and access to technological opportunities arising from molecular imaging, leading to the development of new imaging probes which impact on current practice and validate support tools for the diagnosis of brain tumours. The early detection of lung, colon, breast, prostate and other tumours will imply the need for new marker molecules and mechanisms to deliver appropriate radiotherapy and preserve normal function, an aspect to which the new projects give particular emphasis.

Early clinical trials for breast cancer and leukaemia

In the development of new treatment, early clinical trials are decisive to select the future therapies that will be developed and proof of principle established. Two networks of excellence for conducting these trials will be created focusing on breast cancer and leukaemia.

Network of Excellence of bio-banks and cancer registries

Population studies have already proven things like tobacco to cause of cancer. The next phase of genetic discovery will be to identify the genes that contribute to the predisposition to cancer and to the way it responds to therapy. Quality controlled bio-banks are an essential tool to achieve this aim, allowing both the design and evaluation of cancer treatment and prevention strategies. They will also be instrumental in identifying new causes of cancer. In this context, a network of excellence linking bio-banks and cancer registries will provide a base for further study and framework for these analyses. It will foster implementation of European quality standards and help gather samples from control populations and from patients with familial cancers, and in future help turn these studies into clinical practise.

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