Tackling brain tumours – EORTC proves value of academic collaboration in the research of brain cancer

A recently published article in Cancerworld focused on the therapeutic challenges that were and still are encountered for the treatment of brain tumours. The hopes, fears, frustrations and excitement of the researchers, advancing step by step but leading to treatment breakthroughs made possible through the collaboration of different partners enabling researchers and clinicians to address challenging unmet needs and find solutions for their patients. EORTC plays a major role in networking and exchanging valuable information worldwide, in the search for a cure for brain cancer.

Over the past decade a number of promising drugs have failed on clinical trials, either because they were not able to cross the blood-brain barrier, or because brain tumour cells are so diverse in their genetic and metabolic composition. Despite their dedicated work, EORTC researchers’ biggest frustration is that nothing has yet replaced the 10 year long established treatment still remaining the standard of care for people with brain tumours.

Some say in 10 years immunotherapy may have replaced chemotherapy; what we can do with radiation and chemotherapy is done. Scientists are very optimistic that we are going to see progress in immunotherapy, and probably also novel concepts stopping the invasion of tumour cells.

All these years, the EORTC has actively participated in the research of new and more effective therapy. Research that is free from commercial interests is the strength of academic groups as EORTC and its network. It is one of the many examples where academic clinical research brings substantial therapeutic progress.

The road ahead looks long and uncertain, but how will research be funded? The EORTC is supported by some national cancer leagues, social responsibility programmes and charitable donations. Many trials are partly funded by foundations; support that is vital since there is no direct commercial benefit and no support by industry. The EORTC also develops partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, and conducts carefully designed clinical and translational research in an independent manner, another model to bring therapeutic progress to rare tumours notably, which are not in the primary interest of the commercial sector.

Denis Lacombe, Director General of EORTC says: “We have a commitment to patients. If we think that a research question is important for patients, we make it happen. We tell our scientists and our doctors that EORTC is the place to be because we have the capacity to do this kind of international trials. If you have a good idea and it is a good project, we will find a way!”

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