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Comprehensive Cancer Center Vienna: Joining forces against cancer

(World Cancer Day, 4 Feb. 2011) In Austria around 36,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year. The most common malignant diseases in men are prostate, lung and colorectal cancer. Women mainly suffer from breast, colorectal and lung cancer, which is also clearly the most frequent overall.

“Austria boasts success rates that are among the best worldwide,” explains Univ. Prof. Dr. Christoph Zielinski, who – with the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) at MedUni Vienna and the Vienna General Hospital (AKH) – set up an institution last year to bring together leading forces in the fight against cancer. As well as 28 divisions and university hospitals, eleven centres of medical theory and research institutions of MedUni Vienna, non-university scientific establishments also cooperate within the CCC.

Interdisciplinary tumour boards and oncological research clusters
“Here particular attention is not only paid to providing interdisciplinary patient care but also to explicitly promoting the links and overlaps between research approaches,” adds Zielinski. This work is based on two pillars: on interdisciplinary tumour boards, each of which plan and further develop therapies for individual types of cancer, and on oncological research clusters. These clusters aim to concentrate academic resources and utilise them better and to promote the exchange, interaction and collaboration of successful oncological research at the Vienna location.

Thanks to this, the cancer patients at the Vienna university hospitals at AKH are benefitting not only from the greatest possible range of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures based on the latest treatment standards but also from access to clinical trials, “because trial results change daily practice in the treatment of patients”. At present, 20 to 25 percent of MedUni Vienna’s oncological patients are taking part in trials with new forms of medication, in the case of breast cancer this is as high as 30 to 40 percent. In the long run the plan is to double this number.

The CCC also encourages and creates networks for teaching knowledge in the field of cancers at every academic training level. An internationally competitive range of programmes is being set up, from the education of students and post-graduate continuing and advanced training courses, to oncology-oriented PhD programmes in the sense of interinstitutional cooperation.

Coordination of the CCC is the joint task of Univ. Prof. Dr. Christoph Zielinski, Univ. Prof. Dr. Maria Sibillia, head of the Cancer Research Institute, and the renowned breast cancer specialist Univ. Prof. Dr. Michael Gnant. Univ. Prof. Dr. Richard Pötter acts as chairperson of the board, the body of participating hospitals and institutes.