DNLargeExperts Aim to Revolutionise Cancer Treatment in 10 Years

In our efforts to get cancer under control within 10 years, a revolutionary new program was set up by Inspire2Live and a team of leading international scientists. Together, they created a network that allows them to share knowledge, data and facilities to speed up the process of getting new treatments for differentt types of cancer.

Further reading

Read more about our program here: The Discovery Network Background Development Proces

Read more about The Discovery Network Background

Press Release (nov. 2011)

Experts Aim to Revolutionise Cancer Treatment in 10 Years
Leading Scientists Map Pathway to turn Cancer into a Chronic Condition by 2021

In october the first steps were set on The Discovery Network. A complete new way of doing research. Better Observations, Better Treatments and Better Networks. The 7 best researchers and clinicians came together to make the difference. Cancer will be under control within 10 years. On the 17th of january 2021, the Network will be set up and the 7 will return to work together with several other brilliant minds in Paris on the 4th and 5th of february 2012. Not just to talk but to act and show what has been done in the time between october and february. Of course we will let you know shortly after this meeting what will be the next steps. But let everybody see that we continue our quest and that it’s not just hope. Cancer will be defeated.

Cambridge, England 01 November – Leading scientists, researchers and clinicians from Europe and America convened at Christ’s College, Cambridge this weekend to launch a new initiative to transform cancer from a terminal disease to a manageable, chronic condition within the next ten years.

Discovery Network Core Team

Link to full press release to be added..

On the Discovery Network

The crucial question that must be answered is ‘How can we get cancer under control faster?’ A key aspect of this goal is that we will have to be more efficient in translating new basic insights into more effective therapeutic regimen.

From: Understanding Life: Program plan


Everybody can get cancer. More than one third of the people will get cancer.  Some characterized groups and some individuals carry an even higher risk. We want to do everything possible for those who (can) get ill from cancer. But are we doing everything possible and reasonable? This is an important question, but not the question that necessarily leads to action. Therefore, we will put the question in a more challenging manner. Can we do better and can we push the limits of what is possible and reasonable at this point in time and in the (near) future? How? Given current knowledge of cancer biology, we have no reason to believe in eradication of the culprit of cancer. But we have reason to believe that we can do much better.

Better observations and better networks for better treatments

Communicating the detailed observations that matter to patients and access to better networks of researchers, clinicians and patients is crucial. Luckily, better communication about detailed observations and better organization of better networks has been studied in depth. For example, better communication about better observations is covered in the work of Gerd Gigerenzer (Gigerenzer, G. and Muir Gray, J.A. Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions, MIT Press, 2011). Better organization of better networks is studied in the work on social capital by Ronald Burt (Burt, R.S., Brokerage and Closure, Oxford University Press, 2005).

How can we do much better? We consider entrenched practices of detailed observation and network infrastructures as rate-limiting steps. And we must find the means to overcome those limits. Otherwise we will not succeed to achieve what is needed to get cancer under control in the near future. The Discovery Network is about the creation of a network to achieve the required acceleration in cancer research. It is part of a millennium program with a common goal: get cancer under control in 10 years; make it an illness that we will perceive as a chronic disease. The Discovery Network will create an open environment for those aiming to pursue a common goal and to better reach that common goal. The common goal of the Discovery Network is to improve thetreatment of cancer. Patients are part of this open environment.

This document is about the Discovery Network and the human brains that use it and are connected through that Network. To function as a full-blown information science, with connected brains, the Discovery Network will incorporate three levels of cooperation in the area of cancer research and treatment.

  • Better sharing of better observations
  • Better utilization of better treatments
  • Better organization of better networks

The Vision

In the fight against cancer, both patients and their loved ones feel a huge sense of helplessness. Cancer is everywhere. Fighting it seems pointless. More than one in three people develop cancer. Everyone involved has first hand experience of how dramatically their lives are affected and how devastating it can be.

The International Foundation Inspire2Live was created with the aim to empower people to convert the sense of powerlessness, caused by cancer, into a sense of strength. We achieve this by motivating as many people as possible to constantly challenge and expand their boundaries. Inspire2Live created the program Understanding Life.  The Discovery Network is part of Understanding Life and aims to expand the boundaries of people.

The Discovery Network

Networks do the work. But the details of the biology of cancer determine the quality of the outcome of the work. The contrast between details and network is so crucial that we should attend to it specifically.

Details: Better sets of high quality observations (sequencing of the genome, imaging, quality of life indicators, et cetera) of groups of patients and individual patients, will be required to discover and utilize better treatments. In fact, without capturing ever better high quality data of treatment effects and sharing them, we will not be able to distinguish good from bad, better from worse or better from superior. At some point strict regimens of diagnostics, treatment and the observation of treatment effects are necessary to make any progress at all.

At the end of the day, cancer treatments (combinations of drugs chemotherapy, immunotherapy, operation, operating by cooking tumor tissue, combinations of therapies et cetera) are central. Introducing better treatments can mean adapting existing treatment regimen as well as replacement of an existing regimen with a better regimen for specific well characterized groups or even designed at the level of the individual patient. Here (of course) quality of life matters!

Networks: On top we need better networks (research groups, cooperating institutes, teams of clinicians and lab researchers, patient advocacy groups, et cetera). We aim to facilitate data sharing and the fluent creation of problems focused networks of researchers, clinicians and engaged patients. Thus the way we work within and between groups of researchers, clinicians, engaged patient and all relevant others can be significantly changed. Here is crucial, among other things, the system of incentives and the reward structures. They are decisive in encouraging the required forms of cooperation.

cloud or hub, connecting the relevant people and professionals, and is the instrumental reason for creating the Discovery Network. The notion of the Discovery Network should be seen as the analogy to the search engine, where a search engine is about search and the Discovery Network about discovery. About the discovery of better treatments: for well-characterized groups and for well-characterized individual patients.

The functions of the Discovery Network

What is the Discovery Network? The basics are simple. The implementation and the actual use will be a challenge to specify. In fact, actual implementation of the Discovery Network is a discovery process in itself.

This is a high level functional account. We will enter the world of information science, because apart from the actual brains of people and the hardware, everything else should become exchangeable as information! For example, we will speak of tumor characterization. What those characteristics are, we will not specify. But the information pertaining to the tumor characterization must be exchangeable.

The six functional elements of the Discovery Network are:

  • The first element: The basic idea is that we create a network, which supports the combination of ideas. This means: connecting brains and sharing all detailed information that the brains require to reach the common goal: getting cancer under control. The process of striving for the common goal is designed as a cooperative game.
  • The second element relates to better detailed observations. High quality tumor characterizations will be needed. New imaging regimens, new imaging techniques, better reports and access to repositories will be necessary.
  • We need a map of all treatment possibilities.
  • We need exchange with and connection to networks of scientists and clinicians, in order to screen cell lines. The networks include the people who operate the facilities to design animal models, screen drugs and set up early clinical trials.
  • The kernel of the Discovery Network enters here. Observations, treatments and networks must be matched. This is not an autonomous process, but open and with more than one brain in the loop. We envision a multidisciplinary tele-consultation environment. The brains are connected through a social media environment.
  • Finally, the results must be studied in the patient populations. Results from this clinical application must also feed back into the Discovery Network.

We will next pay attention to the dynamics of the Discovery Network in action.

Dynamics of discovery and implementation: brokerage and closure

Improvement ultimately means exploration, discovery, invention, development and implementation. Because new high quality observations, new high quality treatments and new high quality networks will have to be added to or replace the old sets of observations, treatments and networks.

Brokerage and closure is about this dynamic process of improvement (Burt, 2005). In fact, the Discovery Network is an example of an improvement system ever open to falsifications over time, replacement of entrenched practices and better new ways of working, in principle ad infinitum.

We put the Network on top. Because in the proper networks of responsible professionals and patients, observations obtain their meaning. Treatments obtain their designated purpose in teams of professionals and patients. The Discovery Network is about improving networks, improving treatments and improving observations. Sadly many attempts to improve research and clinical practices are too narrow, too broad, or too metaphoric, given their claims. We believe that networks, treatments and observations together must be part of our pursuit. No more and no less.

It is important to note that brokerage and closure are characteristics of two different kinds of networks: open en closed networks respectively. Consequently, the quality criteria for the two kinds of networks differ.

Discovery never starts from scratch. We find ourselves in an intricate network of entrenched practices. It is in this network of practices that new discoveries will be found and a subset of those discoveries will come to fruition and gives way to a new generation of newly entrenched practices.

Brokerage is the active process of noticing discoveries, and the first step in bringing them from idea to practice and from the bench to the bed. This often means that existing practices will require extension and in some cases substitution. Brokerage, in other words is about finding and creating new connections, testing new findings and when the right criteria are met, moving toward implementing them. The implementation itself is part of network closure.

The challenge of closure is twofold. First, execute what is known at some point and replace what is entrenched by what is better given some explicit criteria. The new knowns are the product of discovery.

Second, creating new networks and new treatment regimen can eventually be followed by new discoveries, new knowns and in some cases, opening an existing closure. Here we enter network brokerage again.

This means that any improvement can be followed by even further improvements. It should not surprise us that there is an intrinsic tension between brokerage and closure. Therefore, entrenchment should remain open to change.

Making the difference

The challenge is clear. To improve the system of discovery and speed up implementation for patients, we have to expand the boundaries of observationstreatments and networks. For the Discovery Network to do what it claims, we must focus on all three.

The Discovery Network connects brains and leaves to the brains what the brains are good at. It lets the network do what the network is good at. If the Discovery Network is based on any trick, this is its basic trick. It is not an Artificially Intelligent system. The Intelligence is in the interaction between brains of real people. If the people stop thinking and stop interacting, no matter how fancy the network, it will not make any difference at all. And this brings us to the human factor, the most important factor of all! It is driven by the emotion of helping the patients and their loved ones.

Conclusion: the central position of the human factor

We want to get cancer under control in 10 years. At the core it is the patient who must benefit (Gigerenzer, G. and Muir Gray, 2011). The patient who is smothered, because of tight regulations, the bad reputation of big pharma, bad information from e.g. hospitals in information material, deliberate misrepresentation of research results (for example, reporting relative improvements in percentages instead of real improvements in terms of absolute numbers in journals), et cetera.

The human factor is the rate-limiting step. Only if we succeed to engage patients and doctors, families and friends in our pursuit, we will be able to make real and ongoing progress in real time. That is the bottom line.

The Discovery Network requires users who endorse a code of conduct. One important aspect of the code of conduct relates to the way in which reward is shared. And speaking of human capital metaphorically: conduct will ultimately determine the value we grant to the life and well being of human beings, who as a species must learn to live a happy and healthy life in harmony with cancer. We as groups and as individuals will learn to control cancer better and more in real time.