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International Cancer Research Fellowships - 2

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - iCARE-2 (International Cancer Research Fellowships - 2)

Reporting period: 2018-05-02 to 2020-05-01

1. What is the problem/issue being addressed?
Cancer represents a major public health problem: the worldwide cancer burden is extremely high, and with it the economic burden in terms of costs for cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Therefore, understanding the biological mechanisms of cancer and translating basic research findings into better prevention and therapeutic strategies are top public health priorities. The best approach to tackle this urgent need is to invest in international, frontier research by training young and talented scientists that will be able in the future to lead the global fight against cancer.

2. Why is it important for society?
Training motivated and experienced researchers to become tomorrow leaders in worldwide cancer research to find a cure for cancer is important for several reasons.
Cancer research is not an island: with iCARE-2 fellowships program, we give the opportunity to young researchers from different fields and different backgrounds to tackle the extreme complexity of cancer from different points of view, increasing the probability to find a cure for cancer.
All iCARE-2 fellows moved to a different country to start their fellowships: such transnational mobility allows the cultural, scientific and professional growth of fellows, their supervisors, their groups and their Hosting Institution.
In science we trust: in order to weaken the harm done by fake news and crooks taking advantage of other people’s illnesses and pain, building trust into science and scientific research is a crucial point. As part of the iCARE-2 experience, fellows interact with the general public, while learning to recount their scientific goals, results and experience and helping to increase the social trust in scientific research.

3. What are the overall objectives?
Building on the success of two previous FP7 COFUND programs, the Italian Foundation for Cancer Research (AIRC) has implemented a new fellowship scheme capitalizing on the experience gained and the input received from former awardees.
iCARE-2 (international CAncer REsearch fellowships) is a transnational mobility fellowship program intended to foster worldwide cancer research by training competitive researchers.
Excellent training in innovative scientific research areas, coupled with acquisition of transferable skills, will allow fellows to be at the forefront of research and to respond to the challenges posed by such a complex disease to the scientific community and the general population at large.
In the first two years of the iCARE-2 program, two iCARE-2 Calls for applications have been published and we received 130 applications from candidates located in 24 countries.

Thanks to the collaborative effort of an international pool of expert reviewers, 35 meritorious experienced researchers have been selected to be further trained in cancer research in prestigious Hosting Institutions distributed in 10 different countries, such as Italy, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, USA and Switzerland.

Fourteen iCARE-2 fellows have already concluded their first fellowship’s year: they settled in a new city and new lab, establishing their research line and networking with colleagues and collaborators. They participated to international conferences and public events, including meetings in schools and science festivals.
Some iCARE-2 fellows joined AIRC researchers at the National day of cancer research, which took place on October 2019, and they had the opportunity to meet the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella.
Thanks to the extremely high level of iCARE-2 fellows, it was possible to obtain in a very short time eight scientific articles published in international peer-reviewed journals. These publications shed light on several aspects of cancer biology, from the involvement of immune system (immunology) to the role of non-genetic factors in the regulation of cancer behaviour (epigenetics).

One iCARE-2 fellow, Dr Alessandro Carrer, was awarded a My First AIRC Grant, a very competitive grant for junior researchers, worth 500.000 € in five years. We are confident that the prestigious MSCA COFUND fellowship played a crucial role in making Dr Carrer’s CV highly competitive. Dr Carrer had to terminate his iCARE-2 fellowship, because of incompatibility between the two grants.

iCARE-2 fellows took part to more than 20 outreach events, including social media gatherings, meetings in schools and science festivals. They were mentioned also in several articles published on AIRC channels and on national media, where they shared their experience and their current projects to underline the importance of scientific research.
iCARE-2 fellow Desideri (right), AIRC Sci. Officer Mossuto (left), TriesteNext Science Festival 2019
iCARE-2 fellows and Sergio Mattarella (centre) President of Italy National Day Cancer Research 2019
AIRC Scientific Officers Mossuto and Redaelli presenting the 2019 iCARE-2 webinar
iCARE-2 fellows Massara (left) Carrer (right) AIRC Sci. Off. Mossuto, Galileo Science Festival 2019