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The Government Office funds innovative cell therapy and cancer data management projects

08.07.2024 | 13:52

Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs has secured €2.96 million in funding from the Government Office's Public Sector Innovation Fund’s spring round for two innovative cancer treatment projects. The funds will be divided between advancing cell therapy and developing a structured cancer data management dashboard. These initiatives, supported by the Ministry’s partners in cancer prevention and care, will be implemented over the next two and a half years.

Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop announced that a total of eight innovation projects received funding in the spring round, all of which will be further developed and tested in collaboration with researchers and companies. Taimar Peterkop highlighted that for the first time, projects from the health sector were submitted, and both of them deserved the funding. The implementation of these projects will improve the treatment options and quality of care for Estonians in the challenging field of cancer treatment," noted Secretary of State.

The projects align closely with the activities of the soon-to-be-established Estonian Cancer Center and significantly contribute to the goals of Estonian Cancer Control Plan, explained Kadi-Liis Veiman, Project Manager at Ministry of Social Affairs. One of the funded projects involves the genetic modification of T-cells from the immune system of patients with blood cancer, enabling them to recognize and destroy cancer cells. This scientific approach, known as CAR-T cell therapy, has shown promising results in the US and Europe, especially in cases where other treatments have failed. Although this method is not currently available in Estonia, the necessary prerequisites and expertise to develop personalized treatments exist within the country. With the support of the Innovation Fund, Estonia aims to make significant progress in cell therapy capabilities, potentially offering world-class treatment locally at a more acceptable cost compared to international alternatives.

Blood cancers, including lymphomas, myelomas, and leukemias, account for 6-7% of all cancer diagnoses and cause over 300 deaths annually in Estonia. The CAR-T cell therapy being developed could initially benefit approximately 20 patients per year.

According to Kadi-Liis Veiman, the second project supported by the Innovation Fund aims to create a uniform national approach to cancer data management, which is crucial for all cancer patients, healthcare providers, and researchers. „The lack of structured and high quality cancer dataimpedes the evaluation of diagnosis and treatment accessibility and quality based on cancer patient pathways The problem is similar in major European cancer centers, and there is no well established solution in Europe. The project intends to develop a comprehensive national approach to data management. This will enable patients to have a better understanding of their treatment pathway and participate more effectively in data-driven decision-making regarding their treatment options. Additionally, it will reduce the workload of healthcare professionals by automating data entry and transmission as much as possible. High-quality data is also essential for scientific research, clinical trials, and the development of health technologies internationally. Structured and quality data will allow for more precise strategic decisions and faster analysis of cancer prevention effectiveness at the national level. For example, it will enable monitoring whether cancer patients reach consensus-based consultation and treatment timelines, commented Kadi-Liis Veiman.

Ministry of Social Affairs' applications involved partners from Tartu University Hospital, North Estonia Medical Centre, East Tallinn Central Hospital, Tallinn Children’s Hospital, Health and Welfare Information Systems Centre (TEHIK), Health Insurance Fund, and National Institute for Health Development (NIHD).

In Estonia, the number of cancer incidences is expected to double by year 2030 compared to 2000. Over 8000 new cancer cases are diagnosed annually, and around 3500 people die from cancer.

As of 2021, approximately 68 000 people in Estonia had been diagnosed with or treated for cancer. In 2022, the Health Insurance Fund covered the treatment of 51 000 individuals with malignant tumors, funding cancer surgeries, treatments, and medications with more than €171 million.

The Government Office's Innovation Fund supports the discovery, development, and testing of innovative solutions within the public sector to address issues identified in Estonia's development strategy "Estonia 2035." Projects are executed in collaboration between submitters and the Government Office, with solution providers selected through procurement processes.

The Innovation Fund projects are financed under the 2021-2027 implementation plan of the Cohesion Policy Funds measure "Enhancing Public Sector Innovation Capacity."

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