In the EU-28, cancer accounts for 25.8% of the total number of deaths, acquiring the second position behind cardiovascular diseases. In 2012, among the EU member states, the highest standardized death rates for cancer were recorded in Hungary and Croatia, both with rates over 330 per 100 000 inhabitants (EuroStat data). During the past decade(s), significant developments have been made to lower the burdens related to cancer and its complications. Indeed, since 2005, more than 60 anticancer drugs have been approved by the FDA, which include novel chemotherapeutic agents, humoral and cellular immunotherapy applications, as well as high-end targeted cancer therapy protocols (e.g. angiogenesis inhibitors, modulators of specific and multiple molecular pathways). In addition, significant progress has been achieved in cancer prevention (e.g. cervical cancer vaccine) and screening (e.g. breast and prostate cancer).
Yet, despite these tremendous efforts and advances, cancer is still a rapidly growing burden (especially in the ageing societies) and remains a public health problem world-wide. Our vision is that the lack of break-thought translational developments in the field is due to the extreme heterogeneity of malignant diseases. We are convinced that this can only be combatted successfully if one employs novel, alternative and multidisciplinary approaches which include combinations of personalized, precision and systems medicine, as well as of multilevel ‘omics’ including genomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, single-cell analysis, lipidomics, etc. Of further importance, since cancer is mainly a genetic disease caused by mutations in DNA leading to inherent heterogeneity at the cellular and molecular levels, intensive research efforts should be invested to assess the genetic material of the tumor cells. These studies can help in identifying such cancer-related novel, key genes or genetic variations which may function as future therapeutic targets and/or validated tools for early detection, diagnosis, and prevention.