Medical experts and cancer patients alike hope to see new and innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to the disease on the island with the inauguration of the Nicola David-Pinedo Cyprus Cancer Research Institute (CCRI) on Monday.

President Nikos Christodoulides, who attended the ceremony hailed the creation of a “pioneering research centre” in Cyprus.

“In today’s global environment, the current conditions of development and progress, it is equally important to work and promote innovation, especially when it comes to the health sector. And the space we are inaugurating today responds exactly to this philosophy and serves this approach,” he said.

The new centre is situated at the west entrance of the University of Cyprus campus.

The project consortium belongs to three partners: the University of Cyprus, the Karaiskakio Foundation and the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre.

The Institute, he said in his speech, will be a “landmark for our country”, but also an important nucleus for the development of a national network of Research Excellence, highlighting Cyprus as a centre for cancer research and patient treatment, as well as an incubator for young scientists, creating bridges of communication and knowledge exchange with other centres abroad, while offering training opportunities.

The event was attended by the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakidou, the Vice-President of the European Commission for the Promotion of the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, the former President of the Republic, Nicos Anastasiades, the Interior Minister, members of the David family, and representatives of foreign diplomatic missions and the local authority of Nicosia.

The building is named after Nicola David-Pinedo, daughter of the building’s donors, George and Kaiti David, who lost her battle with cancer in 2016.

“You are leaving a legacy that will promote continuous cognitive training and the search for new therapeutic approaches to cancer, for the benefit of thousands of our fellow human beings who live and struggle daily with this disease,” he said.

He said that the state, recognising the importance of the CCRI, will promote its institutional support with the aim of its better utilisation and that the most essential way of supporting the Centre will be announced in the near future in cooperation and with other national initiatives.

In his own speech, the chairman of the board of the Cyprus Cancer Research Institute, Professor Constantinos Christofides, stated that the research activity of the Centre began in 2018 in temporary laboratories at the Karaiskaki Foundation and that as of today they are moving to their new home.

He noted that the first objective of CCRI is to establish the National Cancer Research Network which will bring together all the research groups and units engaged in cancer research in the country. “The goal is for everyone to help and benefit from the synergies, he said, adding that they want all groups with them, both from the public and private sectors,” he said.

In his speech, Schinas referred to an emblematic project for Cyprus, with great importance for Europe as a whole, noting that the scourge of cancer affects everyone. In the European Union, he said, 2.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer annually, while 1.3 million people die from the disease. He also said that 40 per cent of cases can be treated through early diagnosis, but that, “unfortunately”, only 3 per cent of health spending at European level is invested in promoting prevention and promoting a healthier lifestyle and that this is something that needs to change.

He referred to the actions of the current European Commission in the health sector, and to the European Cancer Plan which aims to tackle cancer holistically in the EU and said that with the support of the Horizon Europe programme, almost €400 million was invested in actions related to cancer for the period 2021-2023.

For her part, EU Health commissioner Stella Kyriakidou, in her speech referred to the European Plan to Fight Cancer which, she noted, brings a series of pioneering actions that span the fields of prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, but also the quality-of-life people with cancer experience. She stated that the goal is for this institute to become a great bridge from Cyprus to Europe.

Meanwhile, George David, said that when they lost their daughter in 2016, they decided, in her name, to give hope to those who fight cancer every day and to create an Institute that will promote research and focus on innovation and in the fight against the different manifestations of this disease. He said that the CCRI was created with a view to pioneering, with the perspective of leading the way in finding innovative answers to the still unanswered questions of the scientific world about this disease and to provide solutions at a practical and human level.

The Rector of the University of Cyprus, Tasos Christofidis, in his own speech, said, among other things, that many of the university’s research groups are already active in cancer research and that this centre is now the connecting link between them.