EIT Health, an EU backed network of health innovators, shares the reasons to be optimistic about the outcomes of collaborations in the fight against cancer. (February 2020)
Every nine seconds, there is a new cancer case diagnosed in the EU and it is currently the second leading cause of death following cardiovascular disease. In addition to the considerable impact on the lives of European citizens, cancer puts a huge strain on Europe’s health and social systems as well as the economy.
However, it is estimated that 40% of all cancers could be prevented if we put into practice what we have learnt from decades’ worth of research, data and innovation in the disease area.
World Cancer Day aims to encourage individuals and governments to unite and work together to reduce the number of preventable cancer deaths and improve access to quality treatment.
EU-backed EIT Health’s mission is to enable European citizens to lead longer, healthier lives, and it actively develops patient-centred innovations that aim to improve the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.
Through connecting leading organisations from the worlds of business, research, education and healthcare delivery, and providing funding and support to the most promising, cutting-edge solutions, EIT Health plays a vital role in bringing innovations in cancer to the patients who need them. From a blood-based prostate cancer test that predicts the risk for aggressive prostate cancer to a potential treatment that selectively targets a protein shared only by cancer cells, therefore avoiding any effect on healthy tissue.
EIT Health CEO Jan-Philipp Beck said: “Innovation is key to the development of ground-breaking solutions to arm us in the fight against cancer.
We believe that by joining efforts across Europe and working in collaboration across borders we can reach a point where we can reduce the impact of cancer through earlier and more accurate diagnosis, faster and more effective treatment and better support for those living with cancer.”
MEP Manfred Weber agrees with this sentiment. He adds: “We made the fight against cancer a top priority in the European Union. This is a field where European cooperation can make a real difference. Innovators and entrepreneurs at EIT Health can be part of this historical opportunity.”
EIT Health’s five reasons to be optimistic are:
1. Artificial Intelligence is transforming diagnosis
There have been significant advances in the use of AI to diagnose and grade cancers, which has the potential to improve detection and treatment of the disease. EIT Health project, OncoWatch, an AI system, has been proven to be equivalent to experts in prostate cancer diagnosis. In a study published in The Lancet Oncology, it was comparable with international, leading uropathologists in determining the Gleason score, the most important prognostic marker for prostate cancer.
OncoWatch therefore has the potential to significantly reduce the workload of uropathologists, allowing them to focus on the most difficult cases and at the same time acting as a safety net to improve the standardisation of diagnoses. It also has the potential to speed up prostate cancer diagnostics and reduce the costs for healthcare services.
A first CE-marked product of OncoWatch is expected to launch in Europe by the end of the year.
2. A promising new cancer therapy is starting human clinical trials
EIT Health supported start-up, Peptomyc is leading globally renowned research into an innovative new therapy which has the potential to transform cancer treatment for patients with many different types of cancer. Their research into inhibiting a protein called Myc, which plays an important role in cancer cells’ survival and proliferation, showed that not only was it feasible to inhibit it, but in doing so it has a therapeutic impact against cancer without damaging healthy tissue.
Peptomyc is now completing the industrial production of their medicine and is planning to start human clinical trials in patients in 2020. Their research has since paved the way for many more groups around the world who are now developing their own Myc inhibitors.
3. A new blood test is improving the detection of prostate cancer so that it can be diagnosed earlier
EIT Health backed project, Stockholm3, is a blood test that analyses five protein markers and over 100 genetic markers, along with clinical data, to accurately predict the risk of aggressive prostate cancer, providing an informative indication about whether a biopsy is needed. It is currently used in clinical practice in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark and is in the process of expanding further across Europe and the rest of the world.
Stockholm3 could potentially replace or complement the current PSA test, which can be unreliable, meaning that aggressive forms of prostate cancer can go undetected, thus missing the opportunity for effective early treatment.
Launching Stockholm3 in further markets provides the opportunity to reduce the number of men unnecessarily undergoing biopsy and treatment and identify aggressive cancers earlier, boosting survival rates and reducing healthcare costs.
4. We are using data to learn more about patient responses to new and emerging immunotherapies
Immunotherapy is a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer, but health professionals still don’t understand why some patients respond to it and others do not.
I4PCM is an EIT Health-backed project that unites several EU cancer care centres in an effort to improve the way they share data and thus improve personalised care. The project launched a central database or “Virtual European Cancer Institute” with collective information from the centres about clinical research and patient responses to these new immunotherapies.
By joining efforts to pool information from their clinical, environmental, genomic, imaging and immune biology databases, the data sharing will help to transform clinicians’ and researchers’ approach to cancer research, thereby allowing a deeper understanding of immunotherapy responses than any single centre could achieve on its own.
5. New, non-invasive tests are being created for early intervention in the third most common type of cancer
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in men and second most common in women, with 450,000 new patients in Europe annually. Even after successful tumour treatment, 50% of patients will develop colorectal liver metastases (CRLM), a severe and often fatal condition.
COLO-MET is developing a non-invasive and cost-effective urine test, which, combined with the blood test, can specifically detect CRLM, allowing early intervention of colorectal cancer and earlier treatment.
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