Traditionally, clinical cancer research has been a luxury activity for clinical oncologists in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), says Vassilis Golfinopoulos, EORTC HQ Director. In order to improve cancer outcomes, CEE countries need to greatly improve their research capacities. “Not only does this lead to better patient outcomes through better general cancer knowledge and more rigorous adherence to clinical guidelines, but also provides evidence to inform national cancer control planning.”
Tanja Cufer, Professor of Oncology at the Medical Faculty Ljubljana, Slovenia, says, “The main barriers to conducting non-commercial trials are the huge administrative burdens involved. Together with the lack of research staff, the result is a diminishing interest in clinical research among young medical doctors and scientists.”
Elzbieta Senkus-Konefka, Assistant Professor at the Department of Oncology and Radiotherapy, Medical University of Gdansk, Poland, agrees. “Because of a shortage of oncologists, we are already overwhelmed with work with ‘regular’ patients. Research nurses are practically unknown in Poland and, even where they do exist, the level of funding available for academic trials means that we can’t afford to pay them.” Professor Rafal Dziadziuszko, also at the Medical University of Gdansk, works on thoracic malignancies. He has been involved in trials from early on in his career. He sees a lack of the vision, infrastructure and finances needed to support academic trials. “It is so much easier for the institutions to rely on the existing network for commercially sponsored studies than to establish one for academic trials. As a result, the practical knowledge of clinical trials in the region is limited,” he says.
To learn more about how the EORTC is working to improve cancer research in the CEE, please visit our website.