Following Professor Z. Maricic and Professor I. Padovan’s invitation, a meeting amongst some of the Directors of European Cancer Institutes was convened in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, on 14th May 1979. Under the chairmanship of the then President of the UICC, Professor Umberto Veronesi, and despite significant political, economic and linguistic differences existing in Europe, the Organisationof European Cancer Institutes “OECI” was founded with an enthusiastic belief in an enlarged European cooperation. Since its establishment, the OECI elected an Executive Board with the mandate to appoint a Programme Committee and a Membership Committee for the careful evaluation of future membership.
The first meeting of the General Assembly of the OECI took place on 18th-20th May 1980 in Rhodes, Greece, where the discussion for a European cooperative programme began. The OECI activities were closely linked with the UICC, with the belief that both organisations would derive notable benefits from this alliance. The Organisation has grown maintaining the basic philosophy on which it was created: improvement of communication and a growing cooperation between cancer institutes throughout the European continent.
A new direction
In 2001, under the initiative of the President Guy Storme and Claudio Lombardo, the European Economic Interest Grouping “Liaison Network for Cancer “GEIE-LINC” was founded with the participation of 16 founding members. OECI and GEIE-LINC collaborated thanks to two parallel boards. In 2005 the two Organisations merged to become OECI-EEIG" in step with the ongoing developments in Europe and with a mandate of finding “new and better treatments, providing more comprehensive care and improving patients’ quality of life supported by evidence- based medicine with a holistic approach”.
The office of the OECI-EEIG was confirmed in the heart of Brussels, at the Fondation Universitaire, located in rue d’Egmont, where it has been based since 2013.
The OECI today
After more than 40 years of activity, the OECI still provides the best 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 the right setting and the appropriate note of informality to overcome the political or cultural barriers, which even today sometimes risk to frustrate a true and comprehensive working relationship amongst the main players of the European cancer community.
Today the OECI regroups many European cancer research and care centres - both large and small- from almost all the EU countries other than Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Colombia and Chile. Diversity is an asset to the OECI, and not a cause for discrimination or fragmentation. Larger centres may well use the OECI network to become more competitive, but they must take upon themselves the responsibility of finding ways to share their expertise with the less economically favoured centres, or countries, in order to contribute to the provision of equitable access to treatments throughout Europe.