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The European Commission launches the European Cancer Imaging Initiative

European Commission The European Commission recently launched the European Cancer Imaging Initiative, a flagship action under Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan that is meant to support research institutes, innovators and healthcare providers in employing innovative data-driven solutions at their full potential in order to use them for cancer treatment and care.  

 The Initiative will unlock the power of imaging, High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Artificial Intelligence for the benefit of cancer patients, clinicians and researchers. Its main goal is to foster innovation and deployment of digital technologies in cancer treatment and care, to achieve more precise and faster clinical decision-making, diagnostics, treatments and predictive medicine for cancer patients.

This initiative will work on creating a digital infrastructure that will be useful to link up resources and databases of cancer imaging data across the EU, while ensuring adherence to high ethics standards, trust, security and protection of personal data. It will also connect EU-level and national initiatives, hospital networks, as well as research repositories with imaging data and other relevant health data.

 Why this initiative is so important

Currently, cancer imaging datasets exist for different cancer types, but they are scattered among many repositories and clinical centres in Europe, and they are not easily accessible to researchers, clinicians and innovators.

The novelty that the European Cancer Imaging Initiative is that it will bring to the table an open, available and user-friendly infrastructure of cancer images for all stakeholders. This will be achieved through an integrated approach designed with major European research organizations, institutions, and companies. The infrastructure will support the development and benchmarking, testing and piloting of tools for personalized medicine, essentially offering a backbone for the next generation of cancer diagnostics and treatments. 

"With the European Cancer Imaging Initiative, we will unlock a wealth of data and transform it into innovative cancer care solutions. SMEs and start-ups will play an important role. Our new Testing and Experimentation Facility for AI in healthcare will help them test their data-driven innovations in real-life conditions", said Therry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market.

How the project will be realized

The cornerstone of the initiative will be a federated European infrastructure for cancer images data, developed by the EUCAIM project funded under the DIGITAL programme (18 million euros funding). The project starts with 21 clinical sites from 12 countries and aims to have at least 30 distributed data providers from 15 countries by the end of the project. The project will provide a central hub that will link EU-level and national initiatives, hospital networks as well as research repositories with cancer images data. 

Both common and rare cancers will be included with anonymized images and annotations through this pan-European Cancer Images infrastructure and more than 100,000 cases are expected to be available. At least 50 Artificial Intelligence algorithms, Artificial Intelligence tools and clinical prediction models for researchers within the infrastructure are planned to be deployed by the end of the project.

Following the launch of the European Cancer Imaging Initiative with two projects, the EUCAIM project and the AI Testing and Experimentation Facility for Health (TEF-Health), it is expected that by December 2023 the design of the pan-European digital infrastructure will have been completed and the collaboration mechanisms will have been established. 

Read more about the Cancer Plan for Europe