Data and digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) or high-performance computing (HPC), can be powerful tools for fighting cancer: this is the challenge behind the European Cancer Imaging Initiative, undoubtedly one of the most ambitious projects in the European Cancer Plan (EBCP).

Launched in early 2023 in Brussels, at the headquarters of the European Commission, this new initiative will enable the creation of a cross-border, interoperable and secure infrastructure by the end of 2025 that protects privacy and accelerates the implementation of innovative solutions to access, use and pool medical images, while ensuring a high level of ethics, trust, security and protection of personal data in full compliance with EU values and standards.

How does it work? By using resources and databases that are scattered across several archives and clinical centers in Europe, consequently clinicians, researchers, and innovators will have easy access to large amounts of cancer imaging data. This will enable the development of cutting-edge tools for personalized medicine, which will advance diagnostics and cancer therapies, as well as facilitate the creation of extensive datasets and the interoperability of existing data.

The initiative, developed by the EUropean Federation for CAncer IMages (EUCAIM) and funded with 18 million from the EU’s DIGITAL program, will provide a central hub and federated infrastructure for cancer imaging data, linking 21 clinical centers from 12 European countries.

It aims to have at least 30 distributed data providers from 15 countries by the end of the project. Thanks to this pan-European cancer imaging infrastructure, clinicians, researchers, and innovators will have a network for federated and distributed analysis of cancer imaging data, with more than 100,000 cases available, including rare cancers with anonymous imaging and annotations. At least 50 artificial intelligence algorithms, tools, and clinical prediction models are set to be deployed by the end of the project.

This article has been originally published in Italian on

The path to new treatment solutions is outlined.

The creation of a Europe united towards reversing the trend of diseases like cancer, which accounts for 26 percent of all deaths in EU countries, may be difficult to achieve but certainly possible, and the development of new tools for sharing and analyzing cancer imaging data is proof of that.

This is a substantial step within a defined strategic pathway that, following the official launch earlier this year, includes the early release of the EUCAIM Data Federation Framework in September 2023, with a preliminary proof-of-concept on federation and harmonization of data for at least one cancer type and a few selected use cases.

Following this, the goal will be to complete the requirements analysis and infrastructure design, with collaboration mechanisms defined by the end of 2023. 

In 2024, the EUCAIM platform will be validated and populated with data, and a prototype of the federated learning and benchmarking platform will be released.

Open calls for the federation of existing tumor image databases and implementation of clinical use cases will be the target for 2025. All with the goal of releasing the final version of the EUCAIM platform version in 2025. This includes the final version of tools and services for data providers and platform users.

Following in 2026, the initiative will set out to achieve full operation of the federated European repository of cancer images data with possible expansion in 2027 and onwards.

Such a detailed plan makes one believe that the transformation of big data sets into cancer care solutions is just getting started, as advocated by Thierry Breton of the European Commission.