CRO National Cancer Institute
Dr. Silvia Franceschi
The Centro di Riferimento Oncologico (CRO) began its activities in 1984 and was recognized in 1990 as “scientific institute for research, hospitalization and health care” by the Italian Ministry of Health (MoH). It is devoted to patient-centred tumour care and research including all phases of the disease from prevention to diagnosis, and from treatment to supportive care of patients and their families/caregivers. CRO’s support comes from Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG) region, the MoH, and a variety of competitive grants, notably from AIRC.
CRO’s clinical offer includes innovative medical treatments (precision medicine, immunotherapy, and autologous bone marrow transplant), oncological surgery, and cutting-edge radiotherapy approaches for cancer cure and palliation. A Youth Area is dedicated to adolescent cancer patients. In 2018 CRO’s staff included 653 people (of whom 109 physicians) and 90 young research fellows. A total of 11,200 patients were examined, and 2,955 new cancers were diagnosed. Primary or further-line treatments were provided to 7,321 cancer patients (approximately 50% from outside FVG).
Research, mainly clinical and translational, concerns: 1) Tumour genetics and biology; 2) Epidemiology and prevention; 3) Hematologic tumours; 4) Solid tumours; and 5) Infectious agents-associated tumours. A total of 268 peer-reviewed articles were published in 2018 of which 10% in high impact-factor journals and 164 training courses and 12 scientific meetings were hosted. CRO also runs the FVG Cancer Registry and a Biobank that includes about 170,000 serum/tissue samples from about 7,000 patients and healthy persons. CRO’s library assists medical personnel, patients, and care-givers through the “Patient Education & Empowerment” project.
Collaborations with the Universities of Trieste, Udine and others allow the presence at CRO of an average of 30 residents in medical oncology and other relevant disciplines and 30 PhD students. Young researchers can find hospitality in the nearby Campus that also hosts educational facilities and the scientific secretary of the Regional Ethics Committee for the evaluation of clinical trials. CRO is full-heartedly committed to sharing information with national and international networks, in particular Alleanza Contro il Cancro, OECI – Organisation of European Cancer Institutes, BBMRI – Network of Italian Biobanks, and IARC/WHO.
Focus on innovation
CRO strives for innovation that encompasses experimenting novel organizational and healthcare models. The Institute hosts technology platforms equipped with state-of-art machinery for clinical and research activities: multi-spectral cytofluorimetry/cell sorting; next-generation sequencing; gene/microRNA expression profiling; epigenetics; microscopy and cell imaging; in-vivo and in-vitro pre-clinical models; pharmacogenomics; nanomedicine; and spectroscopy. Cutting-edge tools are also available for diagnostic imaging (CT-, 3T MR-, PET-CT; and SPECT-CT-scan) and radiotherapy (IMRT, VMAT, Tomotherapy, IORT) which lead to improvements in treatment efficacy and lower toxicity. The establishment of proton-therapy and a cell factory is also in progress.
In 2018 200 clinical-experimental protocols (profit and non-profit) were active in collaboration with pharmaceutical and diagnostic industries. CRO’s participation to Regional Operational Programs led to 12 projects on novel products in synergy FVG small/medium-size companies and ideas from CRO’s scientists have led to 18 patented inventions and 4 spin-off companies.
CRO’s Technology Transfer Office is supported by a grant from the Italian Patent and Trademark Office (UIBM-MISE) and participates to NETVAL and ASTP-PROTON networks that bridge public research and industry. In 2017, CRO Campus hosted the first Technology Transfer School addressed to researchers from the 52 Italian IRCCS.
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