Effective treatment of cancer remains one of the biggest medical challenges in the world, due to the large diversity in the spectrum of mutations in individual cancer patients.
To tackle this problem, cancer research will need to be performed at a larger scale than is realistic in a single institute or research centre. By combining minds, resources and data, cancer centres of excellence across Europe are coming together to increase and drive translational and clinical cancer research, which will eventually benefit all cancer patients across the world.
Cancer Core Europe, announced today at the ESMO (European Society of Molecular Oncology) conference in Madrid, is a collaboration of Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus Grand Paris, Cambridge Cancer Centre, Karolinska Institutet – KI, Netherlands Cancer Institute – NKI, Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology – VHIO, and the German Cancer Research Center – DKFZ and its National Center for Tumor Diseases – NCT.
Professor Carlos Caldas, from the Department of Oncology and CRUK Cambridge Institute, has played a leading role in establishing the new collaboration. Cancer is a strategic initiative within the University, and with around 150 research group leaders and 100 clinicians currently undertaking basic, translational or clinical cancer research, Cambridge has substantial expertise to offer the consortium.
"This initiative brings together outstanding cancer centres across Europe in a visionary way. Our understanding of cancer is increasing faster than ever before, and over the next decade or so I believe that this will lead to a revolution in how physicians treat patients. This network will lead that revolution." Dr Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor of Physic and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge.
Cancer Core Europe is a unique partnership that has huge potential to improve patient outcomes by sharing molecular diagnostic data, developing innovative clinical trials, and integrating patient data using electronic records from the 60,000 new cancer patients diagnosed annually across the six centres.
By working together the consortium partners will be able to establish compatible infrastructures for conducting joint clinical trials, to apply for joint funding through European mechanisms and to be a significant partner for the pharma and biotech industry.
“The development of Cancer Core Europe is exciting. The understanding of the science that drives cancer growth is leading to rapid and significant changes in how we need to approach the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients with cancer. If we are to be successful in bringing revolutionary new treatment regimens to patients quickly it will require this kind of collaboration across cancer centres. AZ Oncology looks forward to also collaborating with Cancer Core Europe to help deliver this revolutionary vision." Susan Galbraith, Head of Oncology, Astra Zeneca.
Cancer Core Europe will facilitate translational research that links scientific discovery from bench to bedside. This type of clinical research requires that the data from the different centres can be analysed together using similar technology. Four areas of data will be harmonized across the partnership: electronic medical records that will ease the exchange of patient information according to clinical trial protocols; molecular imaging and diagnostics in order to jointly monitor patients; a clinical trial infrastructure that will eventually allow one of the six centres to sponsor trials across the consortium; and the development of innovative next generation clinical trials.
Some examples of the expertise that Cambridge brings to the Cancer Core Europe partnership are:
- An established and growing early phase clinical trials team already collaborating on innovative national and international clinical trials. The POSEIDON trial, co-led by Cambridge in collaboration with the Netherlands Cancer Institute and the Vall d'Hebron Cancer Centre in Barcelona, is assessing the effectiveness of combining Tamoxifen and the Genentech inhibitor GDC0032 in patients with ER+ breast cancer. The BET inhibitor trial is a phase I/II open-label, dose escalation study to investigate the safety, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and clinical activity of a BET-family inhibitor (GSK525762) in patients with relapsed, refractory haematologic malignancies.
- Pioneering development of the technology to analyse circulating tumour DNA. This technique has exciting potential application in the form of a ‘liquid biopsy’ from a simple blood sample that could be used in future for the early diagnosis of cancer and for monitoring how a tumour is responding to treatment.
- Novel magnetic resonance imaging methods, such as hyperpolarised C13 MRI, are being developed to detect how tumours are responding to treatment within hours rather than days, which will in future enable patients to be given the best personalised treatment for their cancer as soon as possible.
- The Joint Clinical Information System (JCIS) records key cancer data items and tracks treatment pathways for all patients with cancer at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the use of electronic health records such as EPIC, recently launched at Addenbrooke’s, will enhance the ability to treat and monitor patients.
- The MRC Biostatistics Unit in Cambridge is one of the largest groups of biostatisticians in Europe and has established itself as an internationally acclaimed centre for research in biostatistics and a major centre for training and knowledge transfer. A particular area of expertise is the design and analysis of randomised trials, specifically to give them the flexibility to adapt as trial data emerges and to be used to plan the extent and scope of the next phase of research.
“There is little doubt that this partnership will bring new insights into, and opportunities to address, the critical issues we all face in caring for patients with cancer, and we are absolutely delighted, and incredibly excited to be part of it.” Dr Keith McNeil, Chief Executive Cambridge University Hospitals.
The Cancer Core Europe agreement was signed in July and a paper announcing the consortium is published on 26 September in the European Journal of Cancer.