(Adopted by the Nordic Cancer Union Board on 26 May 2014 and revised on 25 November 2022)

1. Background

The Nordic Cancer Union (NCU) is a collaborative body for cancer societies in the Nordic countries. For almost 70 years, the NCU has promoted Nordic collaboration to advance the prevention and treatment of cancer and provide the best possible scientific base for cancer control.

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 to 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, heterogeneous populations, cancer and population registers. 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 “cancer research,” 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 can be combined with data from national biobanks, enhancing the precision and biological relevance of the research.

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.

b) Comparative clinical epidemiological studies. 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 socio economical aspects of cancer and NCU will encourage research within all aspects of care.

c) 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. Many 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

The research project must be a collaborative effort between researchers from research institutions in three Nordic countries or more. However, if the project’s Nordic dimension is exceptionally strong, two different Nordic participating countries can be considered sufficient.

The principal investigator should be employed by a Nordic research organization.

NCU research grants are provided for 1-3 years. However, funding for the 2nd and 3rd year is conditional and subjective to approval of a progress report.

All grant recipients are required to submit a yearly progress report and a final report which may, in agreement with the researchers, be used for NCU marketing and advocacy purposes.

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.