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The position of the organization of European Cancer Institutes
Open Letter to the European Commission and to the Ministers of Health and Research in the Member States
The position of the organization of European Cancer Institutes

Each year in the EU, 2 million people die of cancer and 3 million new cancer cases are diagnosed. Cancer is an increasing health threat and combating it places enormous economic and social burdens on the national health systems and health institutions. Concerted political action is required now, to control the growing incidence of the disease.

In addition to encouraging primary prevention, we need affordable effective treatments for all citizens. This goal will not be achieved unless there are concerted efforts at the EU-level to improve the effectiveness of oncology in all of the various health-care systems. The problem of fragmentation in care and research can only be solved with the development of multidisciplinary care and research, the integration of care, research, and education, and the collaboration necessary to reach a critical mass. The focus is harmonized comprehensive cancer centers to create innovation.

The “Organization of European Cancer Institutes” (OECI-EEIG) has developed first-hand institutional, professional and scientific views on the cancer issue. The OECI community respectfully urges the EU decision-makers -- the Commission and the Ministers in charge in the Member States -- to launch new initiatives to bring together the major players on the cancer scene and to foster stronger synergy in cancer research and clinical practice throughout the Member States. The OECI believes that it has key contributions to make in the development of innovative institutional solutions to the cancer challenge in the EU, provided that recognition and support will be obtained from the European Commission and the Ministers of Health and Research.

The OECI-EEIG

The Organization of European Cancer Institutes (OECI) is a non-governmental, non-profit membership organisation which currently brings together some 50 cancer research and care institutions in the EU and beyond. The OECI membership is growing each year. The mission of the OECI is to develop strategies and to propose solutions that foster innovation and synergies between all the scientific, clinical and management competencies and resources that combat cancer in the EU.

In contrast to other scientific or professional cancer associations, the OECI brings together institutions, not individuals: the OECI is the sole permanent, open institutional forum in the EU where cancer centres and hospitals are able to exchange views and develop consensual solutions to improve oncology across national borders. The OECI is unique in that it is able to relay the common views of the institutional research-and-care community in the EU on most issues related to oncology.

Although the OECI pursues no business interests, the OECI has taken the form of a European Economic Interest Grouping in order to secure its credibility at the European level. The OECI-EEIG is conveniently established in Brussels, at a stones throw from the EC headquarters.

The OECI Oncology Model

All cancer research and care institutions in the Member States are facing similar difficulties and are equally concerned as the impact of cancer grows faster than their means to combat it. The hospitals require novel diagnostic methods and treatments. The researchers require more funding. Cancer research can be more productive with increased scientific collaboration across borders. Translational medicine needs to be more effective in reducing the time for a discovery to be implemented in clinical practice. The challenge is enormous.

All cancer research and care institutions in the Member States are facing similar difficulties and are equally concerned as the impact of cancer grows faster than their means to combat it. The hospitals require novel diagnostic methods and treatments. The researchers require more funding. Cancer research can be more productive with increased scientific collaboration across borders. Translational medicine needs to be more effective in reducing the time for a discovery to be implemented in clinical practice. The challenge is enormous.

The OECI favours the development of such a cancer-management framework: it is developing a multi-disciplinary, integrated model of oncology where prevention, research, development, education and care are smoothly integrated to best respond to the needs of the patients. The OECI Working Groups are developing and promoting the OECI oncology model in various areas: accreditation, clinical guidelines, education and training, new technologies and pathobiology. Their work is in line with EU-wide initiatives since many of the members of the OECI are involved in international collaborations, notably in EU-funded cancer research projects. As an example, the OECI “Pathobiology” Working Group is harbouring the TUBAFROST, a completed FP6 virtual bio-bank project, with the goal of extending the usage of this bio-bank (now used by 11 centres) to other OECI cancer centres.

Moving towards ‘Comprehensive Cancer Centres’

The OECI believes that implementing its holistic model of oncology in centres across the EU is a significant step towards improving the effectiveness of oncology. A centre that would fully implement the OECI oncology model would be called a ‘Comprehensive Cancer Centre’ (CCC). A CCC would bring together all competences, skills, resources and tools needed to optimally care for the patient, and would also be competent for and capable of conducting basic and translational research and for providing advanced education to cancer professionals.

Calling a centre ‘comprehensive’ in the sense of the OECI model raises the question of recognition or accreditation (the US National Cancer Institute has developed an selection and registration system for their cancer centres). The OECI currently fosters the development of a recognition/accreditation scheme to which its member centres would voluntarily subscribe.

The “Accreditation” Working Group of the OECI is currently addressing this question and developing an accreditation methodology that accounts for EU (as distinct from US) requirements. The system primarily used material from Canadian, French, Swedish and Dutch sources. This activity will identify the criteria that CCC’s should fulfil, as well as develop and pilot a CCC assessment methodology. This work is conducted in collaboration with various cancer organizations, notably the European Society of Medical Oncology, the Federation of European Cancer Societies and the European Organization of Research and Treatment of Cancer.

The OECI is currently the only EU-based organization which has the mix of competencies, field know-how, institutional breadth and geographical reach to promote at the institutional level a multidisciplinary approach to oncology in the EU. The consensual, harmonised approach advocated by the OECI in its oncology model appears today as the only way forward to remove the fragmentation which impairs progress in cancer care and research in the EU and to optimise our chances to combat cancer.

The OECI can speak as the voice of the cancer institutions on EU-level. It has the structure, the capacity and the legal form required to harness the knowledge of its members, and is therefore ideally placed to contribute to defining the sophisticated structures that are required for modern cancer research and care. The OECI believes that the EU decision-makers should immediately launch further initiatives to bring together political and institutional players in cancer so as to develop a consensual strategy and working programme to combat this disease. The OECI believes it has a key contribution to make to this process.

The OECI is ready to help and should be recognized by the European Commission and the Ministers of Health and Research in the European member states. The Board of OECI sincerely hopes that this letter serves as a strong incentive for you to support and promote, these European wide views on combating cancer.



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    Berlin 28th -29th October 2010
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  • OECI-ESO Course - Biobanking for Cancer Research: Rules and Roles
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  • Excellence in Oncology - Cutting edge findings into clinical practice
    Athens 18th - 20th November 2010
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  • 1st European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) – Organisation of European Cancer Institutes (OECI)
    Joint Training Course - “Molecular Pathology Approach to Cancer”
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