Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN)

The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN), created in 1952, is a foundation of public utility with a legal status according to private law under the tutorial of the Belgian Federal Minister of Energy. SCK CEN has more than 700 employees, of which one third has an academic degree. SCK CEN was created in order to give the Belgian academic and industrial world access to the worldwide development of nuclear energy. Since 1991, the statutory mission gives priority to research on issues of societal concern such as the safety of nuclear installations, radiation protection, use of ionising radiation in medical applications, safe treatment and disposal of radioactive waste, and fight against uncontrolled proliferation of fissile materials. Moreover, SCK CEN will further increase its efforts with NURA, a nuclear medical centre of excellence for the fight against cancer. By clustering its know-how and expertise within the field of radiopharmaceuticals, SCK CEN contributes to the development of the next generation of therapeutic radiopharmceuticals.

Not only does SCK CEN have the appropriate scientific background and expertise in radiation protection for the use of ionising radiation in medical applications, our organisation is a member of all European radiation protection platforms, such as the European Radiation Dosimetry Group (EURADOS), the European platform dedicated to low dose risk research Multidisciplinary European Low Dose Initiative (MELODI), the European Radioecology Alliance (ALLIANCE), and the European Platform on Preparedness for Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Response and Recovery (NERIS). SCK CEN has been intensively involved in the development of scientific research agendas (SRAs) and roadmaps within these RP platforms and was involved in the European roadmap development within the European CONCERT project.

SCK CEN also develops, gathers and spreads its knowledge through education and communication, and its available know-how and installations are also used for services to the nuclear industry, medical sector and government.

Role in project

SCK CEN contributes to the following work packages:

  • WP2: Contributions to the organisation and participation of panel meetings and workshops to identify synergies and interlink topics of the EURAMED SRA and other relevant platforms, associations and stakeholders, such as EURADOS (task 2.2), MELODI (task 2.1) and ALLIANCE (task 2.4 co-lead).
  • WP4: Participation in panel meetings and workshop that are involved in the discussions on the SWOT and scope for a possible European Centre of Excellence (task 4.1)
  • WP5: Participation in panel meetings and workshop to discuss how to facilitate and assure worldwide radioisotope availability (task 5.3)
  • WP6: Participation in the panel meetings and workshops on the development of the medical roadmap; sharing of expertise from the development of the European RP roadmap (task 6.2 co-lead)

European CanCer Organisation (ECCO)

The European Cancer Organisation (ECCO) is a not-for-profit international association. It is a multidisciplinary organisation representing over 150,000 professionals in oncology through its 27 member societies. ECCO is governed by its board composed of 15 directors elected for a two-year term from its member societies by the General Assembly.

The General Assembly gathers for an official meeting twice a year and consists of a main representative and one alternate representative designated by each member organisation. ECCO’s Executive Committee is composed of the president, president-elect and treasurer as well as any other board members appointed for this purpose by the Board of Directors. It is currently composed of four officers. Both the ECCO Executive Committee and the Board of Directors have a team of staff and consultants, led by Chief Executive Officer Mike Morrissey, to support the organisation’s strategy, operations and activities.

The European Cancer Organisation was established and is governed by the provisions of Title III of the law of 27 June 1921. It organises the European Cancer Summit every year, bringing together leaders from the cancer healthcare, patient advocacy and stakeholder communities. It is also committed to engaging with cancer patient advocates; bringing forward multidisciplinary educational initiatives specifically tailored to meet the scientific, educational, and professional needs of oncology specialists; and disseminating scientific advancement, knowledge and insight through publications.

ECCO provides a platform for European cancer societies and organisations to work together to improve cancer patient outcomes and to be the unified voice of the European cancer professionals’ community when addressing common policy issues. Through initiatives such as the Essential Requirements in Quality Cancer Care, ECCO harnesses the expertise and experience of the entire oncology community to address questions of common concern, looking collectively for answers that will result in the best possible outcomes for cancer patients through informed policy making.

Role in project

ECCO’s role in EURAMED rocc-n-roll is to lead Task 3.6 The patient perspective on radiation-based health care and the RP research: needs and opportunities. In addition, ECCO contributes to Task 3.1. assessing needs and opportunities in radiation application in oncological diseases, to Task 3.5. which addresses common interests and identifies synergies, to Task 4.3. dealing with the ethical challenge of digitalization as well as to WP6 where all the input gathered in WPs 2-5 will feed into the SRA, roadmap and interlink document.

Comité Européen de Coordination des Industries Radiologiques Electromedicales et d’Informatique de Santé Aisbl (COCIR)

COCIR is the European trade association representing the medical imaging, health ICT and electromedical industries. Founded in 1959, COCIR is a non-profit association headquartered in Brussels (Belgium) with a China Desk based in Beijing since 2007. COCIR is unique, as it brings together the healthcare, IT and telecommunications industries. Our focus is on open markets for COCIR members in Europe and beyond. We provide a wide range of services in regulatory, technical, market intelligence, environmental, standardisation, international and legal affairs. COCIR is also a founding member of the Global Diagnostic Imaging, Healthcare IT and Radiation Therapy Trade Association (DITTA).

COCIR represents the radiological and radiotherapy industry in the EU and promotes harmonisation of regulatory frameworks, supported by state-of-the-art international standards.

Our industry provides safe and high quality products and services that contribute to reducing health inequalities and enhance cost efficiency in healthcare systems. COCIR’s key objective is to promote free worldwide trade of innovative medical technology while maintaining the competitiveness of the European medical imaging, electromedical and health ICT industries.

COCIR’S goals are:

  • Provide COCIR’s members with competence towards policy makers in Europe and outside
  • Contribute to sustainability of healthcare systems through integrated care approach
  • Promote Research and Innovation as a key enabler for economic growth
  • Drive global regulatory convergence (Registered once, Accepted everywhere)
  • Optimise the use of International standards
  • Push for national and regional deployment (eHealth)
  • Pro-active in Green Technology (Eco-Design)

Role in project

COCIR leads and contributes mainly to Task 5.2 Generating a framework for clinical and industrial transfer of innovation but will also participate in Task 5.1, Task 5.3, as well as in WP2 (Task 2.6), WP3 (Tasks 3.1-3.6), and WP4 (Tasks 4.1 & 4.2).

Universiteit Gent (UGent)

Today Ghent University attracts over 44,000 students, with a foreign student population of about 6% (40% of PhD students). In 2018, the university invested over 308 million euros in research projects on behalf of public and private partners and employed around 7300 academic staff members. Ghent University is ranked 66th in the Shanghai and 143th in the Times ranking. The University has participated in 263 research projects in the Seventh Framework Programme, of which it coordinated 42 collaborative projects. Up till now, Ghent University is under Horizon 2020 involved in around 270 projects and coordinates 26 of the collaborative projects.

The university is one of the fastest growing European universities in terms of research capacity and productivity, and its commitment to European research excellence is reflected by the recent extension of the European Office in its Research Office, i.e., the department overseeing, guiding and administering research projects. It hosts 60 ERC grant holders (22 under FP7 and 38 under H2020) and acquired 55 Marie Skłodowska Curie fellowships (26 under FP7 and 29 under H2020). In H2020, it is involved in 46 ITN projects (8 as coordinator).

The university provides excellent training opportunities to both young and experienced researchers, for which it has been rewarded with the HR Excellence in Research label by the European Commission. Ghent University awarded 689 PhD degrees in 2018, of which over 30% went to international young researchers, and counts 21 highly cited authors (Clarivate) among its academic staff.

UGent endorsed the Charter for Researchers & Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers in 2006. The European Commission rewarded Ghent University’s action plan for researchers with the “HR Excellence in Research” logo in May 2014.

At Ghent University, different research groups work in the medical physics and medical radiation protection area. More specifically, the Division of Medical Physics is responsible for medical physics and radiation protection education and training at Ghent University and is among the largest training centers for medical physics experts in Belgium. The research conducted by the Division of Medical Physics focuses on patient-specific dosimetry in X ray applications and nuclear medicine, image quality assessment in diagnostic imaging, evaluation of biologic effects of low doses of ionising radiation, and biomarkers for treatment optimization in radiotherapy. The Division of Medical Physics is closely involved in different national and international projects linked to these topics. Hence both our educational and research activities are embedded in the field of medical applications of ionising radiation.

Role in project

The UGent Division of Medical Physics leads Task 7.2 in WP7 on education and training in medical radiation protection. More specifically UGent will organise 3 multidisciplinary medical radiation protection training events based on a framework developed in Task 7.1 using state of the art active learning concepts. UGent also participates in WP2 by contributing to Task 2.5 Analysis of SAMIRA and MEDICIS projects and related recommendations.

Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB)

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is a competitive, high quality, socially committed and internationally oriented university located in Brussels, Belgium. It counts 4 campuses in and around Brussels, 8 faculties and 193 research groups around 9 strategic research clusters: 1) big data, 2) brain & behaviour, 3) city dynamics, 4) environmental issues, 5) fighting diseases, 6) small particles, 7) smart engineering, 8) societal challenges, and 9) the circle of life.

In 2019, VUB ranked #47 in Reuters’ Most Innovative Universities Top 100 in Europe. It has 127 active patent families and disclosed 40 inventions. VUB accommodates 3 doctoral schools (Human Sciences, Natural Sciences and (Bioscience) Engineering, and Life Sciences and Medicine) that cater to the needs of its more than 1600 PhD students (2017: 1677). Additionally, the university provides high quality education in all academic fields to more than 16,000 BA and MA students (2017: 16,094).

VUB is an active participant in European R&I projects, Horizon 2020 in particular. There are currently about 130 running R&I projects at VUB in all strategic research clusters, and the budget acquired from European funding sources increased from €6 million to €16 million between 2014 and 2019 thanks to a specific support concept implemented. The increase mainly demonstrates VUB’s commitment to promoting European R&I.

The experience of ICMI for the current project lies in multiple fields.

(I) In the field of radionuclide therapy, providing a unique combination of dedicated infrastructure and know-how to enable high quality and large scale radionuclide therapy experiments, including more difficult-to-handle alphaparticle therapies.

The research team of the ICMI lab has evaluated the use of sdAbs as targeting vehicles for TRNT in preclinical cancer models, initially through the therapeutic beta-particle-emitting radionuclides 177Lu and 131I.

These proof-of-concept (PoC) studies showed strong signs of tumour growth inhibition with absence of toxicity in non-target organs in preclinical models of multiple myeloma (2), ovarian cancer (3), and in a model of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (4). In addition, sdAbs radiolabelled with alpha-particle emitters such as 211At and 225 have been developed by the ICMI team (5, 6), together with our collaborators from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Institute of Nuclear Imaging and Technology in Poland, and the JDR Advanced Nuclear Knowledge in Karlsruhe, Germany.

(II) In the field of radionuclide imaging, in particular the field of immuno-imaging. The ICMI lab has generated, i.c.w. with immunology research groups, a set of sdAbs targeting immune markers. These sdAbs are either crossreactive for its mouse and human target, or available in both mouse- and human-targeting versions. This is important to allow straightforward experiments in mouse models with mouse-specific immune markers, but with the potential to translate findings to clinical trials if the sdAb proves successful in mouse context.

In order to noninvasively analyse changes in the tumour microenvironment (TME) after treatment, ICMI together with the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Therapy (LMCT) and the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology (CMIM) have generated and evaluated sdAbs for molecular imaging of tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs, target: macrophage mannose receptor or MMR) (7, 8) in hypoxic areas, and inhibitory immune checkpoints in the TME such as PD-L1 (9) and LAG-3 (manuscript in preparation). These radiolabelled sdAbs allow imaging of inhibitory immune checkpoints within the TME and could predict the best combination treatment approach.

(III) In the field of clinical translation of radiolabelled sdAbs. As mentioned above, the ICMI lab has brought a first sdAb targeting the cancer cell marker HER2 successfully into phase II clinical trials, and a second sdAb targeting TAMs (anti-MMR-sdAb) will soon be injected into a first patient. Moreover, the Camel-IDS-sponsored phase I trial with their main compound CAM-H2, was performed at the nuclear medicine department of VUB, with Prof. Marleen Keyaerts as principal investigator, providing additional experience in clinical translation of radiolabelled sdAbs.

Role in project

Within EURAMED rocc-n-roll, VUB contributes to Task 2.5: Analysis of SAMIRA and MEDICIS projects and related recommendations (Analysis of existing approaches of SRAs and related documents in the field of medical radiation protection). Based on VUB expertise with the European Commission SAMIRA initiative, analysis of the SAMIRA project findings and recommendations will be conducted and relevant aspects that require consideration for the SRA, along with input from other nuclear medicine experts in the consortium, will be identified. VUB also contributes to Task 4.1 Infrastructures for research on medical applications of ionising radiation and corresponding radiation protection as well as to WP5 Industrial research, innovation and sustainability.

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