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The following text appeared in the first issue of the OECI Newsletter and was written by the first Chairman of the OECI, Professor Heinrich Wrba (Austria).

The major Cancer Institutes of Europe often have long histories and traditions dating back to the last century. Political problems, differences in economy, and the fact that more than 20 different languages are spoken, provided a far from favourable background for developing international cooperation and understanding of mutual challenges in approaches to cancer issues.Nevertheless far-sighted oncologists in many countries of Europe tried for a long time to establish working links and multilateral cooperation among European Institutes to increase the European working efficiency. Most of such early attempts were frustrated and only favourable cases ended at best in bilateral agreements.

On the other hand, the Association of American Cancer Institutes, which was founded in 1959, was favoured by a common language and a common national administration. This Organization has proved to be an efficient mechanism in stimulating oncological programmes all over the country.

More recently regional organizations of cancer institutes and other bodies involved in the fight against cancer were established in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

This growing tendency towards regionalization, with the resulting benefits for improved cooperation, provided an added stimulus and sense of urgency among European institute directors to develop closer working links.

As a result, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Cancer Research Institute in Vienna in 1977 the President of the UICC, Professor P. Denoix, convened a historic meeting of European institute directors.

Sixty leading personalities in oncology from all over Europe and from other parts of the world assembled on 26 October 1977 in the great Redoutensaal of the Emperor's Castle in Vienna. The initiative for organizing the meeting was taken by the International Union Against Cancer’s (UICC) Committee on International Collaborative Activities (CICA) Programme. Professor Denoix explained that the UICC, particularly through CICA, aimed to promote greater cooperation among the world's cancer centres and institutes in the field of cancer control, data collection and dissemination, and finally in collaborative research. He expressed the hope that the meeting, unique in the history of European oncology, would be the starting point for new and dynamic inter-institutional collaborative efforts in Europe. The discussion indeed revealed such enthusiastic support for an initiative by the UICC that Professor Denoix appointed a Planning Committee. This Committee, composed of 6 institute directors from Eastern and Western Europe, was invited to prepare a plan of action for presentation at the UICC Business Meetings on the occasion of the 12th International Cancer Congress in Buenos Aires in 1978.

Two formal meetings of "the Planning Committee for European Cooperation" led to the creation of a new structure serving as a framework for the existing international organizations. The major recommendation of this committee was that the membership of the new organization would be open only to Cancer Institutes in Europe working solely in the field of cancer. It was decided that a multidisciplinary approach within an Institute would be a prerequisite for membership.

Following the invitation by Professor Z. Maricic and Professor I. Padovan, the second meeting of Directors of European Cancer Institutes was convened in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia on 14 May 1979, under the chairmanship of the President of the UICC, Professor U. Veronesi. As on previous occasions there was unanimous and enthusiastic support for the idea of an enlarged European Cooperation. So strong was this feeling that the "Organization of European Cancer Institutes" was founded during that meeting. This meeting thus marks the real starting point of future working activities. The Executive Board was duly elected, and it immediately appointed a Programme Committee and a Membership Committee for the careful evaluation of future membership.

The first meeting of the General Assembly of the "Organization of European Cancer Institutes" took place on 18-20 May 1980 in Rodos, Greece, following the invitation of Dr. B. Lissaios. The friendly atmosphere of this island contributed to a feeling of belonging for all participants and contributed to the outstanding success of the meeting. With the acceptance of English as the working language of the Organization, the first steps to work out structures for efficient cooperation to overcome the linguistic and traditional heterogeneity of Europe were taken. The first discussion of possibilities and outlines for a European cooperative programme began.

In contrast to other existing regional structures, the Organization of European Cancer Institutes decided to link its activities closely with the International Union Against Cancer, in particular with the CICA Programme. This decision was not so much based on the strong support which the OECI had received from the UICC in the past, but on the belief that both organizations would derive notable mutual benefits by working together, thereby acting as a catalyst for further collaborative research, exchange, and comparable activities in Europe. On the other hand, the Organization's programmes and activities were designed so as not to duplicate those of existing international organizations based in Europe. Close contact was to be maintained with other regional groups and with its sister organization, the Association of American Cancer Institutes, which had provided special encouragement.

The Organization today provides an excellent forum for the directors of member institutes to meet regularly, to exchange views, and to formulate plans for future inter-institutional collaborative ventures. It provides just the right setting and the appropriate note of informality to overcome those political, cultural, and language barriers which frustrated for so long a true and comprehensive working relationship between all of Europe's major cancer institutes.

While these opportunities are in themselves a great step forward, there is also a strong and growing feeling among members that there is a need to elaborate and to develop a suitable programme of activities on a more formal basis. This is not an easy task but the members of the Programme Committee and others are formulating concrete initiatives.

Thus a major goal of the second meeting of the General Assembly in London, made possible by the excellent arrangements of the OECI’s hosts, Dr. W. Bodmer, Dr. L. Lajtha and Dr. R. Weiss, was to make use of the prevailing enthusiasm among members to elaborate an efficient and competent programme for the future.

The Foundation of the OECI has been acclaimed a great achievement by oncologists from all over Europe and the world. The future of the Organization in accordance with the basic philosophy on which it was created, will be based on improving communications, and increasing cooperation between cancer institutes all over the European continent.

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Upcoming Events

  • 1st European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) – Organisation of European Cancer Institutes (OECI)
    Joint Training Course - “Molecular Pathology Approach to Cancer” recommended 13 European CME credits by ACOE
    Amsterdam, March 7th – 9th 2011
    Course Web Site

  • Bilateral Meeting Organisation of European Cancer Institutes - American Association of Cancer Institutes
    “Organization of Comprehensiveness: comparison between OECI and AACI”
    Amsterdam, June 16th 2011

  • Scientific Conference OECI 2011
    “Organization of CCCs: the road map for innovation and the development of personalized cancer medicine”
    Amsterdam, June 17th 2011

  • OECI General Assembly (restricted to OECI Members and Associated Members)
    Amsterdam, June 18th 2011

    Hotel Porto Bay Falesia, Algarve
    September 27 to October 4, 2011

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