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International Cancer Research Fellowships

Final Report Summary - ICARE (International Cancer Research Fellowships)

Cancer represents a major public health problem: the worldwide cancer burden is increasing (18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018, according to the latest estimates by the International Agency for Research on Cancer) and, with it, the economic burden in terms of costs of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Research is the key to preventing cancer and to finding a cure. A successful approach in the fight against cancer involves sharing knowledge, capacity and expertise among researchers worldwide, as research is a global endeavor. Within this framework the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC), a major Italian charity, joined forces with the European Union to set up iCARE, an ambitious fellowship program under the Marie Curie Action, that intended to:
1. boost the mobility of experienced researchers (post-doc fellows or equivalent) worldwide to and from Italy;
2. create new knowledge in any field relevant to oncology leaving freedom of choice in the research topic (bottom-up approach);
3. broaden the expertise and abilities of fellows by integrating their research activities with training in complementary skills and participation to scientific meetings.

The principles and requirements of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers were embedded in the programme: to favour a sustainable labour market for researchers, fellows were offered optimal working conditions with employment contracts that included social security coverage and benefits. Awardees were selected based on merit, with an expert, fair and transparent review process (peer review) that would also ensure equal opportunities. The review panel was composed of authoritative, internationally acknowledged researchers; assignments, made in compliance with conflict of interest rules, were based on the best match between a reviewer’s expertise and the research topic of any given application.

International mobility was achieved with the provision of three types of fellowships: Outgoing Fellowships (OF), for Italian scientists who wanted to work in a research lab outside of Italy; Incoming Fellowships (IF), for non-Italian researchers interested in a research experience in Italy; Reintegration Fellowships (RF), for Italian researchers who had worked abroad and who wished to return and work in a research center in Italy.

Important results in several different research fields related to oncology (from cancer genetics to structural biology to immunotherapy) were obtained and shared with the international community, as demonstrated by more than 70 articles published by iCARE fellows in peer reviewed scientific journals. AIRC exploited different channels to disseminate to the general public some of these results, to describe iCARE and to explain the importance of research and worldwide mobility in the global fight against cancer.

Fellows received training in complementary skills (e.g. ethical issues, grantsmanship, science communication and policy, etc.), which will be useful for a career in research as well as for jobs in non-academic sectors; they also participated to international meetings, thus improving their communication skills and broadening their professional network.

At end of the programme, all tasks have been completed.

# Publication of two calls
Within the first call (2014), 58 applications were submitted, of which 54 eligible and peer reviewed.
Within the second call (2015), 67 applications were submitted, of which 65 eligible and peer reviewed.

# Selection of awardees
In the first call, 14 fellowships were awarded: 7 OF; 2 IF; 5 RF.
In the second call, 16 fellowships were awarded: 9 OF; 2 IF; 5 RF.

The complete list of fellows is available here:

Fellows were employed at the Hosting Institutions listed below.
Outgoing Fellowships:
Columbia University (New York, NY, USA)
École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (Lausanne, CH)
Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University (Chicago, IL, USA)
Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA)
Massachusetts General Hospital (Charlestown, MA, USA)
New York University School of Medicine (New York, NY, USA)
Institute of Oncology Research (Bellinzona, CH)
Stanford University (Stanford, CA, USA)
The Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Canada)
University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, CA, USA)
University of Manchester (Manchester, UK)
University of Nottingham (Nottingham, UK)
VU University Medical Center (Amsterdam, NL)

Incoming and Reintegration Fellowships:
Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A. di interesse nazionale (Trieste, Italy)
Fondazione Centro San Raffaele (Milan, Italy)
IFOM - Fondazione Istituto FIRC di Oncologia Molecolare (Milan, Italy)
IRCC Candiolo - Fondazione Piemontese per la Ricerca sul Cancro Onlus (Candiolo, Italy)
Istituti Fisioterapici Ospitalieri (Rome, Italy)
Istituto Europeo di Oncologia I.R.C.C.S. S.r.l. (Milan, Italy)
Università degli Studi di Perugia (Perugia, Italy)
Università degli Studi di Pisa (Pisa, Italy)
Università degli Studi di Trieste (Trieste, Italy)

# Monitoring of the progress in the research and training activities of the fellows
At the end of the first year of their appointment, fellows submitted a renewal request to obtain continuation of their fellowship. In it, a description of the research and training activities carried out was provided, together with a list of publications. At the end of the second year of their appointment, fellows submitted a final report with an update on their research, scientific achievement, training opportunities and meetings attended. Any update on ethical issues had to be provided through the renewal request and the final report. At the end of the fellowship, Hosting Institutions submitted a financial reconciliation. All these documents (renewal requests, final reports and financial reconciliations) were used to monitor each fellowship in a timely manner.