Welcome to OECI Members by the President, Professor Dominique de Valeriola
On September 1st 2014, I formally took up my position as OECI President. My opening words go to my predecessor, Professor Wim Van Hartem. As his successor, and on behalf of the OECI, I would like to warmly thank him for all the work done during his active and constructive presidency.
While continuing to pursue the previously launched activities, we also plan to undertake an in depth evaluation of the OECI’s mission, with a view to highlighting and prioritising the challenges that lie ahead.

Overlapping with other Organisations and their projects should be avoided, and the goals of the existing and future OECI Working Groups should support the specificity and the “branding” of the OECI as the main European Network of Cancer Centres. Cancer Centres are the bedrock of the fight against cancer. The OECI is unique on a European scale and, as such, must play an indispensable role in helping Europe and its Member State authorities adapt their cancer health care systems.

This last point must be clearly drawn to the attention of the EU Authorities, endorsing the reasons why, 35 years ago, a small group of Cancer Stakeholders decided to found the OECI. The OECI Members are called to play a primary role in the above mentioned exercise, confirming, when needed, that we are an inclusive Organisation, which offers the possibility to all Members of contributing towards continued growth in their specific areas of expertise.

Thanks to its extended network, composed of Members with different skills, the OECI has the resources to activate translational research and disseminate the exploitable results to the wider cancer community. The need to improve our role in supporting the innovation process and personalised medicine and providing equal access to treatments, on a European scale, is reflected by the stakeholders’ growing interest in the OECI Accreditation and Designation programme. This approach is in alignment with accreditation systems already adopted at national levels.

We have to invest more in this activity in order to improve the quality level of our Centres, but also with a view to obtaining international recognition of our certification. This, in turn, will bring added legal value at national level, as in the case of Italy or in other countries currently under discussion.

The EC is moving towards a policy of guaranteeing access to equal cancer care treatments for all European citizens: the Directive on cross border care for rare diseases is a clear indication of this. The OECI, with its certified centres, must play the role of promoter, thereby constituting a European network of reference for rare cancers, based on National selected centres.

With its ageing population, the burden that cancer imposes on our society will increase and, therefore, we must be attentive to all European initiatives that aim to improve healthy living and the outcome for cancer patients. Our contribution is fundamental in securing the development of the best health policies and actions that favour patients. In this context, collaboration with the European Cancer Patients Coalition - ECPC - is essential in linking our expertise with patient expectations.

Budget pressure and lack of professional skills may prevent patients and health systems from gaining access to some of the new care approaches. Within this framework, the OECI needs to put more effort into training programmes, especially through collaboration with the European School of Oncology and the European Association for Cancer Research.

A strong organisation of cancer institutes at European level, such as the OECI, contributes to the diffusion of knowledge on the quality of cancer care and translational research, and has the role of supporting coordinated growth for all its members. Therefore, we consider the twinning instrument, recently launched as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 project, as a step in the right direction, to better link our Cancer Centres with one another. This action will also boost the circuit of top quality cancer research and care.

The OECI considers itself as the European point of reference for cancer centres in Europe. Therefore the purpose of my Presidency is also to increase our membership base, as well as strengthening the cooperation with our US counterpart, the Association of American Cancer Institutes, thereby launching a transatlantic axe.

Political actions must be traced in order to find new ways to interact with the recently elected European governing Bodies and in particular, with the European Parliament, the General Directorates for Research and Innovation, as well as for Health and Consumer Protection. I wish the OECI every success in achieving these challenging objectives.

Dr. Dominique de Valeriola MD