Research Strategy

(Adopted by the Nordic Cancer Union Board on 26 May 2014)

1. Background 
The Nordic Cancer Union (NCU) is a collaborative body for cancer societies in the Nordic countries. For 60 years, the NCU has secured Nordic collaboration to advance the prevention and treatment of cancer.

The aims of the NCU research strategy are:
  • Improved knowledge and understanding of cancer
  • More effective prevention of cancer
  • Better results of cancer treatment and rehabilitation
  • Enhanced application of cancer treatment in the Nordic countries
To achieve these aims, the NCU grants funding to collaborative cancer research of high quality involving several countries within the Nordic research community.

2. Why Nordic cancer research?
The Nordic countries have several internationally acclaimed cancer research centers. Exchange of experiences will help the Nordic countries maintain a high standard in cancer care. Nordic cooperation will improve our knowledge and understanding of cancer, prevention of cancer, results of cancer treatment and rehabilitation.

The Nordic countries are similar in many aspects, including demography and cancer incidence patterns. This facilitates collaboration and cancer research of high standard. The NCU strives to play a strong role in encouraging collaborative cancer research of high quality that involves several countries within the Nordic research communities.

3. Focus of NCU funded research
The main focus of NCU funded research is “clinical epidemiology,” defined as:

Cancer research based on synergy between data from human individuals from at least two Nordic countries, or data from human individuals from one Nordic country and data/resources from another Nordic country, with focus on epidemiology, prevention, health promotion, diagnostics, therapy and rehabilitation.”

The prioritized research areas are:
a) Register-based epidemiological studies. There is a unique possibility for register-based epidemiological studies in the Nordic countries, and the NCU will continue to encourage more research in this field. The use of nationwide administrative and health registers and various population-based clinical databases facilitates cancer research initiatives within all prioritized research areas. These data sources may soon be combined with data from national biobanks, which will enhance the precision and biological relevance of the research.

b) Descriptive epidemiology. The NCU will continue to encourage intensified research within descriptive epidemiology. Research on trends in incidence, mortality and survival of cancer in the Nordic countries should be encouraged in order to identify fields in cancer prevention or management in which improvement is needed. Cross-country comparisons are imperative in assessing current national strategic cancer programs and health care policies, and how they should be prioritized.

c) Comparative clinical epidemiological studies. In order to improve diagnosis and treatment, priority should be given to comparative clinical epidemiological studies that aim to elucidate optimal conditions for cancer diagnosis and best practice for treatment, follow up, rehabilitation and palliation. Studies may focus on medical, biological, physical, psychological and socioeconomical aspects of cancer and NCU will encourage research within all aspects of care.

d) Clinical trials. Finally, there should be focus on clinical trials. The number of clinical trials has decreased considerably in the Nordic countries in recent years. A large number of clinical trials are conducted in lower-cost countries and in larger patient populations than in the individual Nordic countries. Non-economic factors relating to, e.g., organizational aspects or Nordic participation in international networks of oncology, may also contribute to the decrease in clinical trial activity. Clinical trials require large patient groups, which may be difficult to achieve in the individual Nordic countries. By placing focus on clinical trials we wish to encourage more cooperation between the Nordic countries.

4. Research outside the NCU research framework
Unidisciplinary, basic, experimental research projects (e.g., based solely on human cell lines or animals) are not included in the NCU research strategy. However, NCU funding may be granted to experimental studies if they complement patient-based studies, e.g., in a study where a basic research method or reagent from a preclinical laboratory in one country constitutes a valuable resource complementing patient-based data in another country/countries. Another example is register-based studies including laboratory data from biobanks.
Large studies initiated and financed by industry are not eligible for support within the NCU research framework. Only academic, researcher-initiated studies are eligible for NCU funding.

5. Formal criteria
To be eligible for NCU funding, the research projects must involve researchers working in two Nordic countries or more. Furthermore, the research projects must have cancer relevance, be uniquely suited to be carried out within the Nordic countries, and the effect of collaboration should be synergistic.

NCU research grants are provided for one year. Further support for the project will require new, yearly applications. As a general rule, project funding can only be renewed twice; a project can obtain funding from the NCU for a total of maximum three years.
All grant recipients are required to submit a yearly progress report.

6. Ethics
Grants from the NCU are awarded under the provision that the grantee has not received, does not receive, or does not expect to receive support for the project from companies/groups/foundations whose production or turnover to a large extent includes current income from production and sale of obvious carcinogens, in particular tobacco.

Applicants who after January 1st, 2012, have received, receive or expect to receive support from the tobacco industry, i.e. companies/groups/foundations, etc., whose production or turnover to a large extent includes current income from production and trade in obvious carcinogens, in particular tobacco, cannot obtain funding from the NCU for 10 years after having received the payment.