NCT Heidelberg
vom 09.07.2020

The European path to personalised oncology: cancer researchers develop a web-based application for the interpretation of complex data

The increasing number of biomarkers makes the decision for cancer treatment more complex. A new web-based platform now combines bioinformatics methods with access to several databases. This enables physicians to interpret the results of tumour diagnostics more quickly, derive therapy recommendations or inclusion in a clinical study. Scientists from Cancer Core Europe, a consortium of seven European cancer centres, including the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg in cooperation with the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), have developed this computer-based platform and have already analysed more than 500 tumor samples in this way.

The web-based program "Molecular Tumor Board Portal" was set up at the Karolinska Institute and SciLifeLab together with clinical researchers from the seven European cancer centers of Cancer Core Europe. The computer application combines bioinformatics methods to determine the biological relevance of genetic variants in tumor tissue with several databases, including those of ongoing clinical studies. In the meantime, more than 500 tumour samples have been evaluated with the system. The tissue samples come from patients who were included in the so-called basket of baskets study. The multi-arm Europe-wide study aims to investigate the genetic characteristics of cancer patients who do not respond to standard therapies.

"With the digital application, we want to support clinicians in an increasingly complex decision-making environment. In many cases today, the use of diverse databases and computer programs is required, which are not always easy to use," explains Rodrigo Dienstmann, senior researcher in the Vall d'Hebron Oncology Data Science Group. As the number of molecular biomarkers grows, the use of cutting-edge technologies is becoming increasingly necessary to facilitate the interpretation of genetic data and improve treatment planning.

The "Molecular Tumor Board Portal" website is currently used by the Cancer Core Europe cooperation network. It provides a platform for the secure exchange of results through personalized reports containing comprehensive molecular information about each patient's tumor. These reports are interactive, data-rich documents that are discussed weekly in virtual meetings with representatives of the multidisciplinary teams of the Cancer Core Europe centers. "From the oncologists' perspective, this system has changed the way we work. The portal provides access to the most up-to-date knowledge about tumour mutations that are relevant for each patient and offers the possibility to discuss cases with experts from the seven centres in a cooperative way," said Dienstmann.

Cancer researchers outside of the CCE have access to an open-access version of the programme at "The website makes an important contribution to making research results usable in everyday clinical practice and to better help people who, due to their disease, depend on quick decisions," said Stefan Fröhling, Managing Director at the NCT Heidelberg.

Original publication
D. Tamborero, R. Dienstmann et al (2020) Support systems to guide clinical decision-making in precision oncology: The Cancer Core Europe Molecular Tumor Board Portal. Nature Medicine.

Press contact:

Dr. Friederike Fellenberg
National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg (NCT)
Press and Public Relations
Im Neuenheimer Feld 460
69120 Heidelberg
Tel.: +49 6221 56-5930
Fax: +49 6221 56-5350

Dr. Sibylle Kohlstädt
German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
Communications and Marketing
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel.: +49 6221 42-2843
Fax: +49 6221 42-2968

Doris Rübsam-Brodkorb
Heidelberg University Hospital and Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg
Press and Public Relations
Im Neuenheimer Feld 672
69120 Heidelberg
Tel.: +49 6221 56-5052
Fax: +49 6221 56-4544

National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg (NCT)
The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) and German Cancer Aid. The NCT's goal is to link promising approaches from cancer research with patient care from diagnosis to treatment, aftercare and prevention. This is true for diagnosis and treatment, follow-up care or prevention. The interdisciplinary tumor outpatient clinic is the central element of the NCT. Here, the patients benefit from an individual treatment plan prepared in interdisciplinary expert rounds, so-called tumor boards. Participation in clinical studies provides access to innovative therapies. The NCT thereby acts as a pioneering platform that translates novel research results from the laboratory into clinical practice. The NCT cooperates with self-help groups and supports them in their work. Since 2015, the NCT Heidelberg has maintained a partner site in Dresden. The Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) was established in Heidelberg in 2017. The pediatric oncologists at KiTZ work together in parallel structures with the NCT Heidelberg.

German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. More than 1,300 scientists at the DKFZ investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and search for new strategies to prevent people from developing cancer. They are developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to all questions on cancer.
Jointly with partners from the university hospitals, the DKFZ operates the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg and Dresden, and the Hopp Children's Tumour Center KiTZ in Heidelberg. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of the six German Centers for Health Research, the DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partner locations. NCT and DKTK sites combine excellent universtity medicine with the high-profile research of the DKFZ. They contribute to the endeavor of transferring promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improving the chances of cancer patients.
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.

Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD)
Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) is one of the most important medical centers in Germany; Heidelberg University's Medical Faculty is one of Europe's most prestigious biomedical research facilities. Their shared objective is the development of innovative diagnostics and treatments and their prompt implementation for the benefit of the patient. The hospital and faculty employ approximately 13,000 individuals and are involved in training and qualification. Every year approximately 65,000 patients are treated as inpatients and 56,000 as day patients in more than 50 specialized clinical departments with around 2,000 beds, with more than 1 million patients being treated as outpatients. Together with the German Cancer Research Center and German Cancer Aid, the Heidelberg University Hospital established The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg as the leading oncology center of excellence in Germany. The Heidelberg Curriculum Medicinale (HeiCuMed) is at the forefront of medical training in Germany. At present 3,700 aspiring physicians and doctors are studying in Heidelberg.

Cancer Core Europe
Cancer Core Europe (CCE) is an alliance of seven leading European cancer centres, all of which combine research with patient care. CCE was founded in 2014 to accelerate the development of innovative cancer therapies through close collaboration in translational and clinical research. Its seven member centres collectively treat approximately 350,000 patients annually.