Challenges and future of cancer diagnostics and treatment examined at int online event

Ljubljana, 25 November - An international online event themed RC Advance: Challenges of the Science of Advanced Diagnostics and Therapy saw experts from various scientific disciplines examine ideas of advanced cancer treatment tools and set out plans for the creation of a Slovenian Proton Therapy Centre and an independent research centre in the field.

The Research Centre for Advanced Diagnostics and Treatment of Cancer, called RC Advance, is to function as an independent unit with the aim being to include most cancer patients in clinical research involving advanced diagnostic and treatment procedures such as proton therapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapies.

The initiative involves experts from various disciplines of medicine, experimental and clinical oncology, medical physics, particle physics and information technologies.

Mark Pleško of Cosylab, the company that organised the event in conjunction with the Slovenian Innovation Centre and Strategic Research & Innovation Partnership (SRIP) Zdravje - Medicina, says the experts behind the idea believe "it would be a blasphemy, so to speak, to have a Proton Therapy Centre as the pinnacle of cancer treatment without a research centre".

Similarly, professor Thomas Bortfeld of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, US, spoke of an exceptional opportunity that such a research centre would offer. He also illustrated some of the differences between research in a hospital and a research centre, including more academic freedom that work in such a centre offers and that is vital for breakthrough research.

Bortfeld also believes such a centre needs to be established with a powerful idea or clear subject in mind to bring together expertise from different fields while it should also make sure the results could have potentially crucial implications for clinical treatment. As an example he offered modelling and optimising personalised medicine.

Moreover, in his lecture professor Rock Mackie of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, argued for a financing system to efficiently respond and support good ideas and solutions.

The event was also addressed by researchers from related disciplines that would also join the centre. The organizers note that Slovenia already has several centres of expertise that can significantly contribute to the creation of RC Advance, including the country's two university medical centres and the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology, all of them regionally well-established cancer diagnostics and treatment centres, as well as many colleges and other educational and research institutions such as the Jožef Stefan Institute and SRIP Zdravje - Medicina.

The event wrapped up with a panel debate where professor Robert Jeraj of the University of Wisconsin and University of Ljubljana as a member of the event's health committee called for cooperation between experts from a range of expertise: "Sometimes we don't even know about each other, what we work on", while there is a vast amount of expertise and opportunities in Slovenia.

"If we stick to our niches we can go on with our work, however, synergy should really be seen as the woods not just the trees," he said, while also calling for linking with the medical industry.