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ERA-NET: Aligning national/regional translational cancer research programmes and activities

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TRANSCAN-2 (ERA-NET: Aligning national/regional translational cancer research programmes and activities)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2021-06-30

Cancer is among the leading causes of death and represents a significant burden of disease worldwide. In Europe it is the most important cause of morbidity and death after cardiovascular diseases, with more than 4 million new cases and 1,9 million deaths each year (source: Globocan 2020, The fight against cancer is a difficult challenge: the key area of translational cancer research would play a pivotal roles. The harmonisation of research efforts with a more efficient use of dedicated resources is crucial and could be facilitated by transnational collaboration and coordination.
The ERA-NET TRANSCAN-2 network is composed of 31 partners: ministries, funding agencies and charities from 15 Member States, 3 associated countries, and a third country, all of them key players in national funding of cancer, with the common aim to link and align their national/regional research funding programs.
The main objectives of the project are:
• To launch and implement a first EU co-funded Joint Transnational Call (JTC) and 3 additional calls.
• To monitor the progress of the funded projects and assess their performance.
• To establish exchanges with the scientific community, with relevant projects and stakeholders.
• To establish a communication, dissemination and networking strategy.
The first EC co-funded JTC and the 3 additional JTCs have been successfully executed. Overall, the calls attracted 1739 research groups involved in the 352 submitted pre-proposals. A total of 49 excellent and cutting-edge transnational projects were funded, involving 247 researchers and mobilising over 52 M€ of funding, from the national/regional organisations participating and from the EC for the first call. The regular monitoring of the implementation of the funded projects was made and the achieved results, both of the TRANSCAN-2 consortium and of the research projects funded, were disseminated to the scientific community and other interested publics.
The calls launched by TRANSCAN-2 were targeting to various current topics of translational cancer investigation.
The first EC co-funded call, JTC 2014, was on “Translational research on human tumour heterogeneity to overcome recurrence and resistance to therapy”; the funded projects were 16.
The second call, JTC 2015, was on “Immunology and immunotherapy of cancer: strengthening the translational aspects”; the funded projects were 7.
The third call, JTC 2016, on “Minimally and non-invasive methods for early detection and/or progression of cancer”; the funded projects were 14.
The fourth call, JTC 2017, on: “Translational research on rare cancers”; the funded projects were 12.
All the 49 funded projects are being monitored to track their progress and their scientific results.
Inclusiveness measures were implemented in the JTCs for improving the partner's success and the participation in consortia of researchers from low-performing countries, increasing the level of integration and experience of the participating funding agencies and boosting the scientific collaborations.
A communication strategy, to increase awareness of TRANSCAN-2 and its impact, was designed to disseminate the results, both of the TRANSCAN-2 consortium and of the research projects funded. The tools used were: a continuously updated project website, the organisation of three TRANSCAN scientific symposia, and the publication of newsletters. The scientific symposia were dedicated to the funded projects, in particular the third one, focused on the EC co-funded call, was open to the public with the participation of several scientists. The newsletters issued were 10, they informed on the JTCs, with dates, call results and statistics, reported the TRANSCAN scientific symposia and success stories from the funded projects.
Following a plan on stakeholder interactions, the network interfaced with several EU programs and expert groups resulting also in new collaborations with international parties and funding organisations. Efforts were also dedicated to the promotion of collaborations with EU Research Infrastructures among the researchers responding to the JTC.
After the work carried out to guarantee a project sustainability in the future, with the inclusion of new partners from new countries (Canada, Ireland, Romania), the successor programme ERA-NET Cofund TRANSCAN-3 will continue to support transnational cancer research under H2020.
The effectiveness of the TRANSCAN-2 action comes from the wideness and strength of the partnership. Most of the 31 consortium partners had already collaborated in the previous ERA-NET TRANSCAN programme (2011-2014) which for first realized the networking of funding organisations committed to align funding programmes in cancer. The common aim of increasing the quality of research in the challenge against cancer was confirmed.
The coordination and cooperation level of the participating EU Member States, associated countries and a third country improved throughout the programme: the strategies of funding research were successful and have made it possible to avoid loss or fragmentation of financial resources due to the duplication or overlapping of funding programs. The international dimension beyond the EU is strengthened by the active and successful involvement of a third country, Taiwan.
The annual joint calls and other joint activities contributed to expand the competitiveness and innovation in the European cancer research area. The funding of excellent research projects positively impacted on the quality of translational cancer research with results made available to the scientific community. The considerable added value generated by transnational collaborations is functional to the construction of a more shared and widespread research competence, in an international dimension. In line with the widening strategy underlying the ERA-NET Cofund instrument, the inclusion in research proposals of teams from low-performing countries was boosted by successful measures, reinforcing the transnational dimension and the profile of their research communities. A number of trained researchers and professionals were supported within the capacity building components; they shared expertise at the European level and contributed to grow the interdisciplinary cooperation. Thanks to the strong financial commitment of the participating partners, the funding a total of 49 excellent projects, with a budget awarded by the participating funding organisations of roughly over 49.0 M€, represented an additional public/private investment of about seven times the EU budget granted to the TRANSCAN-2 action.
TRANSCAN-2 is confirming its efficiency in the coordination of national/regional funding bodies, as a durable and sustainable network for the funding of translational cancer research in Europe and beyond. It contributed to strengthening the transnational cooperation to tackle a common challenge. Like other successful ERA-NETs, it is instrumental to the construction of a more effective European Research Area by establishing strategic synergies.
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