Helge C. Johannssen, Project Manager of H2020-MSCA-ITN THERADNET, recently spoke to the EACR about what THERADNET is, the partners involved, it’s aims and potential benefits.
What is THERADNET – and how did you come up with this fancy acronym?
THERADNET is an H2020-MSCA – Innovative Training Network (ITN) bringing together various partners across Europe to better understand the biological basis of radiotherapy. In 50-60% of cancer patients, radiotherapy is used, with about half of those patients being cured. Our joint vision is to further improve this success rate by providing a deeper mechanistic understanding of cancer radiotherapy. Ah, and for the acronym… we simply sought after the trickiest acronym you can possibly imagine: THERADNET is short for international NETwork for training and innovations in THErapeutic RADiation – and by now we for sure expect you to remember the name!
What is the overall framework of THERADNET?
Eight European radiobiology laboratories represent the core of this “Marie Curie-ITN”, closely collaborating and supervising 15 early stage researchers (ESRs). In addition, THERADNET values collaborations with various non-academic partners to implement interdisciplinary education of our trainees, ensuring their future employability. We kicked-off in September 2019 and the project is funded by the EU over 48 months in total.
Quite naturally, the ongoing pandemic did not help in terms of a successful launch…
True, like many other international projects, we faced substantial drawbacks in terms of mobility and physical meetings, but overall THERADNET remains all on track. In the first two workshops, we used several advanced features of the online conferencing environment to achieve a truly fruitful meeting experience (see Fig. 1).
Who is working on THERADNET? Who are the partners? What are the different partners’ roles?
Eight leading radiobiology groups collaborate to investigate key aspects of modern cancer radiotherapy. The 15 ESRs run individual research projects along the main themes “tumour sensitization”, “normal tissue protection” and “adaptation & escape”. Non-academic partners, e.g. industry, publishers, professional societies, are offering working experiences next to the lab work. Like this, THERADNET aims to educate the next generation of cancer researchers and promote future employability of our young scientists.
What is the EACR’s involvement?
The EACR is an important partner organization for THERADNET, facilitating outreach to the global cancer researcher community. We also plan to partner with the EACR for a future international conference in the field of personalized cancer medicine.
What are the goals of the project? How will it move cancer research forward?
We aim to understand key parameters determining the outcome of radiotherapy (see also Fig. 2): ionizing radiation-induced biological adaptations in tumour and healthy tissues, and especially metabolic and radioimmunological processes. We in parallel investigate characteristics of different radiation modalities to precisely target the tumour, sparing healthy tissues as much as possible to extend the therapeutic window. Overall, the combined project outcomes will add to the scientific basis of improved cancer treatment.
Fig. 2: Scientific focus and goals of THERADNET:
Following up on the previously completed ITN Radiate, the current projects within THERADNET aim to further advance the understanding of biological aspects, which critically determine the outcome of modern cancer radiotherapy.
Who will THERADNET benefit?
THERADNET is thoroughly anchored at the heart of current radiobiology research, so we expect that our consortium’s projects will mutually stimulate ongoing efforts in the wider field of radiobiology and cancer research, clearly involving many researchers and partner organisations outside our consortium. As a model for modern training, we closely involve non-academic partners in parallel with our primary scientific research projects. Thereby, we envision boosting knowledge transfer to the industrial sector, ultimately fostering broad and efficient applicability of basic findings to novel treatments for cancer patients.
What will the project organisers do next?
We are currently preparing for the first round of student laboratory exchanges and organize an on-site scientific meeting to hopefully come together physically finally in October in Dresden – fingers crossed!
How can cancer researchers reading the article get involved?
For sure we would be delighted if you pass by our website (www.theradnet.eu) to inform yourself about the scientific projects and the latest consortium activities. Or just check out the various social media channels to get in touch, leave a comment or subscribe to receive regular updates in the future!
Written on behalf of THERADNET ESRs and their supervisors by: