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ECNIS - Environmental Cancer Risk, Nutrition and Individual Susceptibility

ECNIS is a Network of Excellence operating in the context of the 6th EU Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP6).

Launched in May 2005, ECNIS brings together some of the best European research groups active in the area of environmental cancer and its modulation by nutrition and genetic makeup, into a durable network of partners to conduct high-class research on cancer causation and prevention.

Nearly one in three Europeans develops cancer at some time during his or her lifetime, resulting in more than 2.9 million new cases and 1.7 million cancer deaths every year in the European Union. Environmental factors, nutrition and lifestyle play a major role in cancer causation, while genetic makeup affects the susceptibility to cancer of different individuals. It is obvious that cancer constitutes a major public health problem, which affects most people directly or indirectly, and that a great need to achieve a reduction in cancer burden exists.

The vision of ECNIS is the creation of a dynamic research network which will work to decrease cancer incidence by

− identifying chemicals or other factors in the environment and food which cause cancer,
− elucidating the mechanisms by which dietary and lifestyle patterns increase or decrease cancer risk,
− facilitating the development of new foods with cancer-preventive properties,
− discovering genetic (hereditary) factors which make individuals more or less susceptible to cancer,
− formulating improved approaches to the risk assessment of carcinogens

A major approach employed in ECNIS research is the use of biomarkers of carcinogenesis. Biomarkers of carcinogenesis are usually substances which can be measured in body fluids or tissues and provide information about a person's exposure to carcinogens or about cellular damage caused by carcinogens far earlier than the appearance of clinical disease. Furthermore, genetic polymorphisms can serve as biomarkers of individual susceptibility to carcinogenesis. ECNIS research also addresses the mechanisms by which chemicals alter cellular processes to cause cancer and the way in which food components intervene in these mechanisms. It also aims to improve cancer risk assessment, and to address important socio-ethical issues arising from the use of biomarker technology.

Currently the ECNIS Network consists of 24 partners which represent a multi-disciplinary team of nearly 200 scientists, including toxicologists, epidemiologists, food and nutrition scientists, chemists and molecular biologists. Coming from 13 European countries, the ECNIS partner institutions represent regions and populations with diverse climates, pollution levels and dietary habits, thus providing unique opportunities for the assessment of the impact on cancer risk of environmental exposures and dietary patterns over a wide range of variation, and enabling population studies on a pan-European scale. This diverse and wide membership also provides opportunities for the optimal utilization of the large number of cohorts and human tissue sample banks that exists throughout Europe.

In addition to conducting research, ECNIS aims to train new researchers, to spread scientific information about cancer causation and prevention to the general public and health professionals, to provide scientific support about risk assessment of carcinogens to regulators, non-governmental organisations and industry, and generally to promote the objective of a Science-and-Society dialogue in its area of interest.


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