Izmir 2006


OECI General Assembly and Annual Conference
Izmir, 2006

18-19 May 2006
Izmir, Turkey
This year, the OECI held its annual General Assembly and Scientific Conference in Cesme, a small city near Izmir, Turkey. The events took place on May 18 and 19, in parallel with the week-long scientific meeting on “New Targets in Cancer Therapy” that had been organized by the Institute of Oncology of the Dokuz Eylül University. The venue and the local organisation were simply outstanding, and we are all thankful to Dr. Nur Olgun and her colleagues for the splendid hospitality we enjoyed in Cesme.
Since our 2005 Conference, significant achievements have been made by the OECI Working Groups.
Margaret Haugh reported on the work of the Guidelines Working Group, showing that this important project was in good progress as a EU-funded activity. Implementation of evidence-based clinical guidelines is a main driving factor for the quality of care and harmonized clinical guidelines are important for the OECI Centres. There is a plan to analyse more specifically the needs for guidelines in our Member Centres.

Claudio Lombardo reported on the Education WG. An ongoing activity is to identify the needs for education and training in the OECI Centres. It seems evident that the needs will differ between the Eastern and the Western European Centres, and this needs to be further assessed. There is a discussion to develop a separate educational programme for the Eastern European Centres. There was also a discussion on the profile which the OECI should adopt for its educational and training ‘offer’, considering that there are a number of organisations involved in cancer education in Europe. There seems to be an agreement that the OECI should aim at providing education that will support the concept of comprehensiveness in the OECI Centres.

The accreditation work programme is one of the most specific OECI actions. Mahasti Saghatchian reported on the status of the project. There is a good progress in the project. A €100,000 grant was obtained from the Wallenberg Foundation from Sweden. The third version of the questionnaire and a quality assessment manual will be tested in a pilot during the autumn 2006. At the beginning of 2007, the results of the pilot will be presented in a Workshop (to be held Paris), which will certainly attract a number of our Members.

The Pathology Working Group has become the “Pathobiology” WG, which will now be chaired by Peter Riegman. The WG has taken an important step forward by linking its activity to the TuBaFrost project, a virtual tumour bank that extends across Europe. Thanks to an agreement between the OECI and TuBaFrost, the tumour bank will be extended to and usable by the OECI Centres, and this will create an exceptional opportunity to develop collaborative research between the OECI Centres.
Dirk Verellen reported from the “New Technologies” Working Group (WGT). Physical and biological innovations improve imaging of radiation therapy. Implementation of new technologies in this area is often considered costly and difficult as specific competences are required to handle the new sophisticated methods. There is a strong interest among our Members to follow the activity of the WGT and also to participate to the work. From earlier surveys based on the OECI questionnaire, we noted that there was a tremendous variation among the Centres in the infrastructures for radiation therapy and imaging. Again, harmonization is of importance.
There were several presentations covering Comprehensive Cancer Centres and Networks of Cancer Centres. There is a shared opinion that we need more national Networks of Cancer Centres; good examples are the Italian and French networks of Comprehensive Cancer Centres. There was also a discussion about non-academic hospitals and clinics which provide cancer care in the vicinity of a Comprehensive Cancer Centre. It is important to create a network that links such hospitals and clinics to their neighbouring Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Seth Eckhouse from the European Cancer Research Managers Forum reported on funding of European cancer research and made comparisons to the USA. About seven times more money per capita is spent on cancer research in the US compared to Europe. There are also large differences in funding between Western and Eastern Europe. Quite interestingly though, there are more publications from European research than from research in the US. This may indicate that basic research is more developed in Europe than in the US.

The OECI is the coordinating partner of the 6th Framework Programme “TRANSFOG” project. TRANSFOG is about translational and functional onco-genomics and involves cancer-oriented genomic screenings exploring the way to new diagnostic tools and improved cancer treatment. Enzo Medico, the scientific coordinator of the Project, showed the progress of the Project which has just completed its 2nd year of activity. In the 3rd and 4th year of TRANSOFG, the OECI Members are expected to be involved in validation activities.

We are approaching the launch of FP7, the 7th Framework Programme, which will see a substantial amount of money allocated to cancer research. It is very interesting for our Member Centres to note that the EC intends to spend more money on infrastructure, and this is in line with one of our main goals, which is to harmonize the infrastructures between our Member Centres.
There were also discussions on a number of ongoing European activities. FECS is developing a strategy to become a European membership organisation for individuals, a process that has led to ESMO leaving FECS. A main reason for this development is the need of creating an organisation that speaks for European cancer with one voice.

An important activity is the EU-funded Project Eurocan+Plus, which aims at analysing European cancer research to create more collaboration. This project will investigate whether there is a need for a “European Cancer Institute”, a body that, in some respects, could be similar to the American NCI.
The EORTC is developing a new strategy, NOCI (Network of Core Institutions). The reason is the obvious need in Europe to strengthen the links between clinical trials and biological and translational research. It was stated that future cancer research will be more of a translational type, and hence will be more dependent on the infrastructures of the cancer Centres.

It is interesting that there are several movements in Europe prompted by the need to leave the fragmented situation and be able to speak for European cancer with one voice. In this context, we must remember that the OECI is the only organisation in the EU which can ultimately ensure multi-disciplinarity. As a European Economic Interest Grouping, the OECI has the ‘weight’ and the potential to progress the integration of care, prevention, research and education.

The key message that I would like to pass on to conclude what was said in our 2006 Annual Conference is that oncology in Europe needs to evolve, and it needs be shaped in a way that will benefit the Centres and, ultimately, their patients, and this is where the OECI will play an important, critical role.

Ulrik Ringborg,
OECI President.