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European cancer experts are forming a ‘virtual huddle’ to share knowledge

20 July, 2010  

Despite being at the forefront of science, cancer specialists in Europe are slow to spread the word of their discoveries. This is set to change as oncologists embrace the internet and link together in an EU-funded project

Professor Gordon McVie
Managing Editor, ecancermedicalscience

Email: [email protected]

In Europe scientists punch above their weight when it comes to cancer research, but our cure rates are poor. A recent report commissioned by the European Parliament suggests one of the reasons for this is poor collaboration between scientists and doctors, and inadequate communication between cancer professionals and patients. Patients want to know more.
A fragmented array of information resources and networks hinders effective communication on research in Europe. The European Union (EU) needs to establish an integrated model for a comprehensive cancer information and policy exchange portal. This could then be applied to other areas of healthcare.
Cancer causes more deaths globally than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis put together, yet no workable model addressing communication challenges exists. This would help us come closer to defeating cancer.
Eurocancercoms, a European Institute of Oncology (EIO) initiative, led by the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO) and ecancermedicalscience – an online open-access journal, is aimed at establishing a single, efficient network for cancer communication in Europe to boost cancer prevention, treatment and care. The website  –  – plays a key role in this ambitious initiative.

Professor Umberto Veronesi, scientific director of the European Institute of Oncology, is the principal investigator of Eurocancercoms. Alexander MM Eggermont, president of ECCO, and I are leading the project. ECCO member societies and technical partners are also involved.
ECCO is coordinating the scientific process and ecancermedicalscience the dissemination of scientific results and publishing. Eurocancercoms will review issues surrounding the communication and dissemination of cancer information across Europe, identify bottlenecks and suggesting
solutions. It will do this by:

  • Examining information flow between basic scientists and other healthcare professionals
  • Assessing how cancer research results are disseminated and identifying existing barriers
  • Establishing searchable databases for clinical trials available to all, including patients
  • Using new technologies, particularly internet-based, to create a networked cancer community, including health professionals, patients, consumer groups and industry
  • Writing policies for promoting the best ways of disseminating cancer science across Europe.

Electronic resources
The project presents a unique opportunity to understand the key issues in cancer communication and create novel ways of getting information out to both professionals and patients. It will be the first time that very large groups involved in cancer in Europe have come together to improve cancer communications. We need to understand modern and electronic communications. For instance, the way we currently communicate with patients is still the classic method of leaflets in doctors’ surgeries. Patients are not picking these up any more. They are going online and finding information on the web and through social networking sites.
People are changing and electronic resources are the future. We are working in a different world and the way that we work has to reflect this.
Eurocancercoms will build on Europe’s strengths in terms of existing cancer networks and  cancer information websites. Europe is diverse, but we will be able to network all these different sources of information together and that’s what makes Eurocancercoms unique.