The cancer research of the future

 

One in three men and one in four women in Belgium are diagnosed with cancer before the age of 75. Despite important successes during the last decades, the mechanisms underlying the onset and development of cancer are only partially understood. Hence, cancer researchers are facing great challenges in their quest for better and targeted treatments.

Ghent University (UGent), Ghent University Hospital (UZ Gent) and VIB-UGent (a life sciences research institute in Flanders), have a strong history concerning cancer research. Over the years, different research teams acquired specific expertise that resulted in internationally renowned fundamental and preclinical research. In addition, clinical applications of novel treatments and diagnostic and prognostic tests were implemented. Many research activities and knowhow are however scattered over diverse campuses of UGent, UZ Gent and VIB-UGent.

CRIG's mission is to unite, stimulate and enhance the impact of cancer research at Ghent University, Ghent University Hospital and VIB-UGent. Hereby, we have six different objectives:

  1. Stimulating top research
  2. Collaborating and sharing knowledge and technology, across different expertise domains
  3. Interaction between the lab and the clinic
  4. Communicating and interacting with the outside world
  5. Education and networking for young researchers
  6. Valorization of research

The CRIG management, diverse focus groups, and interaction with internal and external partners will ensure that the above objectives can be realized. All Ghent research groups involved in fundamental, translational and clinical cancer research are able to actively contribute via CRIG to the objectives of the institute and enjoy the benefits that CRIG offers.

Via CRIG, clinicians and researchers of Ghent University, Ghent University Hospital and VIB-UGent engage to join forces to face the medical challenges in the treatment of cancer. The main focus is on top research that in collaboration with the clinic and the industry can lead to more effective treatments and to longer and better survival. Our ultimate goal is that cancer becomes a treatable disease for all patients, and that novel treatments have fewer side effects.

Stimulating top research

 

CRIG aims to function as an attractive platform to stimulate, facilitate and increase the impact of top cancer research at Ghent University, Ghent University Hospital and VIB-UGent. Besides sharing expertise, ensuring dynamic and efficient use of new technologies and platforms, and offering possibilities for networking and education, CRIG also wants to create opportunities for (young) researchers by providing resources to start up exciting and promising projects. CRIG will encourage researchers to actively involve even more internal and external experts in research projects, allowing the research quality to further increase. This can create a lever for larger new projects and to get resources that are indispensable for cancer research to grow and to pay off.

We believe that the diverse initiatives within CRIG will lead to more visibility for cancer research, and create important added value on short and long term for society and patients.

Collaboration

 

Different research groups all have their own expertise and are scattered across different faculties and campuses at Ghent University, Ghent University Hospital and VIB-UGent. This hampers efficient communication, collaboration and shared use of equipment and resources. CRIG aims to respond to these challenges. 

Together, we can achieve more. More than ever, this applies to temporary and future cancer research. Different research areas such as molecular biology, bioinformatics, in vitro and in vivo research and cancer drug trials, are often overlapping and interconnected and can act synergistically for scientists to better understand and treat cancer. Therefore, CRIG aims to stimulate researchers from different disciplines to exchange information about ongoing research and to collaborate, for example through the organization of seminars and joint project applications. Via different communication channels, diverse technologies and expertise domains within CRIG can be actively announced. By sharing expertise, platforms and technology across disciplines and institutions, innovative research can be performed, with efficient use of valuable resources and time.

Interaction lab-clinic

The direct interaction between fundamental research, clinical research and the patient is crucial. In the future, cancer will become an even more challenging threat for our society, amongst others because of the increasing life expectancy of the population. Consequently, there is a great need for novel treatments. Hence, top research should be persued, with a major focus on the development of less toxic and more effective therapies. However, the direct involvement of clinicians is also important. They should guide fundamental cancer research in order to find solutions for the most urgent and relevant needs that patients, physicians and health professionals are confronted with. As such, the major aim of CRIG's intense interaction between fundamental research and clinical practice is that cancer patients will live longer, with a greater quality of life.

Besides the direct involvement of fundamental researchers, clinical researchers and clinicians, CRIG also associates with other internal partners such as the 'Oncological Center' (het 'Kankercentrum') and Bimetra to strengthen the interaction between fundamental research, clinical-translational research and the patient. Ghent University Hospital has broad experience and built a strong reputation in the treatment of cancer patients, and is (inter)nationally renowned for progressive novel treatment methods (such as immune therapy) based on pioneering research. CRIG aims to further enhance the translation of cancer research to the clinic.

Interaction with the outside world

 

Although CRIG initially aims to facilitate cancer research within Ghent University, Ghent University Hospital and VIB-UGent, interaction and communication with the outside world is crucial. Through interaction with other research centers, CRIG wants to share expertise, to stimulate collaborations, and to support education of researchers. Valorization of cancer research will also be supported by interaction with companies (see above).

Next, CRIG also aims to communicate breakthroughs in cancer research in layman's terms to the broad audience. This is possible amongst others by organizing specific symposia in which the state of the art in research is presented in straightforward terms, via this website, press releases, newsletters, videos and social media. Finally, we aim to closely interact with foundations and patient organizations.

Education and networking

 

Education is crucial to produce top researchers. Ghent University offers a wide variety of specialized educational programs, which already delivered numerous top researchers in the past. In October 2016, a new program called 'Major in Cancer' became available within the Master Biomedical Sciences at Ghent University. The close interaction between Ghent University and Ghent University Hospital ensures the direct application of education (and research) in practice.

CRIG aims to further support the advanced education of young cancer researchers and specialists by organizing training sessions, workshops and symposia. For example, CRIG organizes a Doctoral Schools specialist course on cancer to educate doctoral researchers on several aspects of cancer research. In addition, interaction and exchange of students or researchers with other (cancer) research centers (or companies) in Belgium and abroad is encouraged.

Apart from education, networking is an important aspect in temporary cancer research. By offering several opportunities, CRIG aims to allow researchers to connect with colleagues and to stay informed about ongoing research and recent realizations. By inviting speakers with expertise in different cancer research areas, researchers will have the opportunity to learn from and interact with top experts. Finally, CRIG can also play an important role in coaching promising young researchers for a future career within or outside academia. 

Valorization

 

Fundamental cancer research often leads to novel insights in the origin of cancer. In turn, this knowledge can be transferred and translated to novel drugs, technologies or treatments, that are essential to diagnose, treat or even prevent cancer. CRIG aims to facilitate this so-called valorization of cancer research. Within CRIG, valorization initiatives in preclinical and clinical research are supported by valorization experts from Ghent University, Ghent University Hospital and VIB (read more...).

In addition, CRIG aims to stimulate collaboration with companies to establish and sustain an industrial network. By establishing industrial collaborations, licenses, and spin-offs, promising multidisciplinary fundamental research can be translated in the development of novel drugs, diagnostics and innovative technologies in different areas.

(banner: prof. Tessa Kerre with patient - photography credits: Fred Debrock)