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- 05/31/2017

PreCanMed: cancer research without borders from Friuli Venezia Giulia to Tyrol to advance precision anticancer medicine

Pharma Horizon

The Italian-Austrian team of PreCanMed publicly present plans and perspectives of their research and innovation initiative against cancer at the first PreCanMed Workshop in Innsbruck. Leading experts of this cross-border cooperation project also gather to share the latest findings in cancer research with students, other scientists and clinicians, and with citizens.
The first PreCanMed Workshop on precision anticancer medicine and new cancer enabling technologies has taken place in Innsbruck.

The multidisciplinary and interregional team of PreCanMed, a cross-border project funded by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund and the Interreg V-A Italia-Austria 2014-2020, convene at the Hospital of Innsbruck to officially open up to the public.

Scholars and researchers of the biotech sector, medical doctors, students, journalists, and citizens at large can come together to learn about how PreCanMed intends to interregionally implement cutting-edge, powerful model systems to investigate tumors and develop novel bespoke treatments for patients. Lectures on the latest advances and issues in cancer basic and translational research will follow.

The possibility to personalise health interventions for citizens is transforming health care and medicine. The ‘one size fits all’ paradigm, in fact, is slowly giving way to Precision Medicine, a new approach to citizens’ and patients’ health that utilises a gamut of molecular and clinical data about the illness and the individual to provide better, as well as more evidence-based, personalised disease prevention, diagnosis and treatments.

At present, however, precision medicine potential is not fully developed. Many implementation challenges have to be overcome in order to fulfil its promises and benefit from it. And the path is only at its beginning.

Created thanks to the European cross-border cooperation programme 2014-2020, PreCanMed is an Italian-Austrian partnership which aims to enhance the research and innovation capacity of the Italian and Austrian border regions Friuli Venezia Giulia and Tyrol in this filed, and to prepare them to be leaders in the implementation of precision medicine.

In the next three years, PreCanMed will address a key bottleneck in the implementation process of precision anticancer medicine: the availability of faithful, personal models of the disease and their thorough investigation.

PreCanMed researchers singled out tumor organoids and omics technologies as among the most promising technologies to address this issue. They will work together, without borders, to develop tumor organoids from cancer patients. This innovative technology enables to bring individual tumors in a cell culture dish, thus accelerating drug testing and targeting research for specific tumor characterization. Breast, lung and colon cancers, in particular, will be under the lens of PreCanMed, but a special interest will be also focused on mesothelioma. Then, PreCanMed scientists will integrate organoid and omics technologies, high-throughput screenings of compounds and bioinformatics to generate new knowledge and develop or identify more effective anti-cancer treatments.

Moreover, they will establish the first Italian-Austrian cross-border tumor organoid biobank, collecting and preserving developed advanced tools and molecular data. Stefan Schoeftner, coordinating the project on the behalf of the Lead Partner, the Italian Consorzio Interuniversitario per le Biotecnologie – Laboratorio Nazionale from Trieste, explains: «The PreCanMed biobank will represent a unique, invaluable resource to go after cancer and develop better, tailor-made treatments, not only for the Italian and Austrian partners of the project. For this reason, and aiming at extending the future outreach of our efforts, the biobank will be possibly made available, under collaborative agreements, to other regional, national or international stakeholders».

Discoveries, novel treatments, knowledge exchange and transfer, as well as new resources and opportunities are among the expected outputs of this cross-border initiative.

Other two Italian partners from Friuli Venezia Giulia, Università degli studi di Trieste and Università degli Studi di Udine, and the Austrian Medizinische Universität Innsbruck and the Austrian Drug Screeening Institute are side by side with the Consorzio Interuniversitario per le Biotecnologie – Laboratorio Nazionale in realizing PreCanMed.

The Consorzio Interuniversitario per le Biotecnologie – Laboratorio Nazionale (LNCIB), a cancer research center of excellence located in the AREA Science Park in Trieste, is coordinating the progress of this cross-border flagship project for precision anticancer medicine. The LNCIB has teamed up with colleagues from the University of Trieste and University of Udine to use the established expertise in cancer biology and omics to establish organoid technology and biobanks for lung, breast and colorectal cancer, respectively.

  • For the University of Trieste, that has the goal to develop breast cancer organoids, Giannino del Sal from the Department of Life Science and Prof. Fabrizio Zanconati and Prof. Marina Bortul from the Department of Medicine, Surgery and Health Sciences are involved in the project.
  • The University of Udine will focus on the generation of colon tumor organoids and is represented by Gianluca Tell, Prof. Carlo Pucillo, Prof. Claudio Brancolini and Dr. Roberta Benetti, all hosted by the “Dipartimento di Area Medica”.
  • The Consorzio Italiano per le Biotecnologie – Laboratorio Nazionale (LNCIB) is represented by the coordinator of the PreCanMed project, Stefan Schoeftner and will aim to develop organoid technology for lung cancer and mesothelioma

Partner Institutions in Austria – the Austrian Drug Screening Institute and the Medical University of Innsbruck – will focus on colorectal cancer and contribute special competences on drug screening.

This is just a snapshot of PreCanMed and of what is being presented at the Workshop in Innsbruck today. Find out more on the project and the event on and contact PreCenMed at