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In 2021, total grants amounted to around EUR 7.25 million, funding around 87 researchers. The Cancer Foundation had one grant disbursement in the autumn. There were four major grants, other grants for research teams, psychosocial cancer research grants and dissertation grants. The spring travel grants were not opened as the pandemic meant that most of the travel grants awarded the previous year were still unused and were extended until the end of 2022.

Grants for cancer research

The application principles and award criteria for grants will be reviewed annually. The principles and criteria will remain essentially unchanged. Grant decisions will be based on expert evaluations by the Cancer Foundation’s evaluation committees and a proposal from the Grants Committee.

Other scientific support

Cancer Registry and Mass Screening Registry support. The Cancer Registry and its associated Mass Screening Registry receive funding for their basic activities from the THL through state support. The government’s cuts to THL’s funding have affected the subsidies received by the registries. The Cancer Foundation has supported the registries with EUR 1 150 000 per year. In addition, the Cancer Foundation funds the post of epidemiological researcher at the Cancer Registry for a post-doctoral researcher.

The Foundation for the Finnish Cancer Institute was set up jointly by the Ministry of Education and the CSF with the aim of reducing the migration of Finnish cancer researchers abroad. It was originally supported by matching grants from the ministry and the Cancer Foundation. Since 2013, the ministry has not provided any government grants to the foundation, but the K. Albin Johansson Foundation has become a new major funder alongside the Cancer Foundation in the 2000s.

The Foundation for the Cancer Institute maintains research posts and the Cancer Foundation supports cancer research in other ways. The foundation prepared to continue supporting the Finnish Cancer Institute’s research activities in 2022 and started preparing a cooperation agreement that will enter into force in 2023. This will define the principles of funding and criteria for research activities for the coming years.

The Nordic Cancer Union’s (NCU) Cancer Research Fund was allocated EUR185,338 to fund joint Nordic research projects.

Other support. The Cancer Foundation awarded a one-year grant to Allan Tita, PhD, to conduct research and write a publication on the 70-year history of the Finnish Cancer Registry.

The Cancer Registry as a national repository and provider of data services

Aggregation of cancer cases. The Cancer Registry maintains national data on behalf of the THL on cancers and cancer screenings for the whole of Finland. For all new cancer cases, a “case composite” was produced, compiling key information on the stage of cancer detection. Long term series and projections of the cancer burden were produced on an annual basis using the extensive historical data in the registry. The audited and aggregated data was available for research and data management until the end of the statistical year 2019.

In 2021, a total of 29,135 clinical cancer notifications were received, of which 1,445 were submitted on paper, 8,773 via the online service and 18,225 (63%, up from 54% in 2020) as data system entries. The number of clinical cancer notifications received has increased by almost 19% from the previous year.

The aim has been to move away from the use of cancer notifications on paper and replace them with electronic notification methods. The number of paper notifications has decreased by about 38% per year. In addition, a total of 9 077 treatment notifications were received, of which 7 543 (83%) were received online and 1 534 were received via the data system. All pathology notifications were received as electronic data transmissions, totalling 267 123 separate diagnoses. A total of 16 901 death notifications, mainly for 2020, were received from Statistics Finland for processing in the Cancer Registry. Of these, cancer was the statistical underlying cause of death of the patient in 13 263 cases.

The development and updating of the automated cancer coding system continued. The aim was to reduce the workload of manual cancer coding and to make registration as timely and consistent as possible. All notifications and automatic coding were used to create case compilation. The automatic coding was based on structured data and a systematic quality check of the compiled cases was performed by random sampling. The accuracy and quality of the data was found to be excellent. The compilation of cases also requires the skills of trained professionals.

Monthly number of coded cancer cases per person in 2021

Products. The statistics for 2019 were published in April and the Cancer 2019 report in May. The report summarises the current cancer situation in Finland in simple graphics and statistics. The research and expert services development programme (Tutka) added information on regional differences in cancer as new content. The regional distribution of the cancer burden was uneven, with differences in both cancer incidence and mortality. The largest differences were found in lung cancer in women, with a significantly higher incidence in Helsinki, Lapland and Åland than in the rest of the country.

The number of new cancers diagnosed was around 1 400 lower than would have been expected without the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic seems to have had a particular impact on the detection of breast and prostate cancers and skin melanomas.

Annual statistics and reviews of breast and cervical cancer screening data for 2019 were published. The cervical cancer screening review focused on changes in screening processes related to the expansion of HPV screening. The annual review of breast cancer screening looked at socio-economic differences in screening uptake and outcomes and, for the first time, mammography and ultrasound testing outside screening.

The Cancer Registry’s interactive statistical tool, which is updated twice a year, allows researchers to search themselves for a wide range of information on different cancers and cancer burden trends. The website graphs are updated each time a new statistic is published.

In addition, a new statistical application for cancer registry data providers, separate statistics on childhood cancers and a range of infographics on screening were implemented.

Cancer Foundation symposium

Since 1974, the Cancer Foundation has organised an annual symposium for doctors and other experts involved in cancer treatment and diagnosis. Around 150 clinicians and researchers attend the symposia each year.

The 48th Cancer Foundation symposium for experts, scheduled for February, had to be postponed until the following year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Strengthening cancer knowledge and expertise

Cooperation in education. Strengthening cancer awareness is an important part of the work of cancer organisations. In 2021, a particular focus was on strengthening cooperation with educational institutions. A new feature was a series of lectures on cancer for first-year medical students and nurses in cooperation with the Southern Finland Regional Cancer Centre (FICAN South).

Training sessions for students and teachers in universities of applied sciences were organised to increase knowledge and understanding of the role of cancer prevention in the fight against cancer. Training sessions were also organised for other health professionals.
CSF representatives gave lectures at several events, including the Social Affairs and Health Policy Days.
Cancer Registry training. The Cancer Registry reinforces its own expertise through continuous training. In 2021, two training sessions were organised: on cancer prevalence classification and on data collection models and laboratory practices. Training and capacity building will aim at a more self-directed way of working and the production of better quality data. This includes comprehensive documentation of work, modelling of data flows and making data handling processes visible.

Cooperation with Nordic and EU cancer registries was pursued, including through participation in annual meetings of the sector. A project has been launched with the Nordic cancer registries with the aim of strengthening the skills of coding staff through integrated training. The project will result in a curriculum for Nordic cancer coders and increased know-how for Nordic comparison of registered cancer data. The registry will provide expertise for the ENCR project on the electronification of educational programmes, especially from a pedagogical point of view. The first six educational modules will be published in 2021.

Training for health professionals involved in colorectal cancer screening was transferred to the Pedanet platform. The content of nursing training was created and tested with the nurses involved in the pilot. This development work will continue in 2022. The lecture materials for the training for colonoscopists were renewed and videoed; the training will start in spring 2022.
The registry continually trains researchers and students. In 2021, the Director of Statistics was a part-time professor of epidemiology at the University of Tampere.
Strategic research
Strategic research refers to scientific research that addresses policy agendas and is timed to contribute to helping policy makers to understand and solve a problem. To be useful, such research must be able to anticipate the key issues on the agenda so that problem areas can be identified or answers provided before decisions are taken.

These issues have been related to cancer determinants and anticancer drugs. In 2021, two articles were published on tobacco policy. In March, the journal Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published a research article based on a legal analysis of how regulation could better protect young people from snuff and nicotine pouches. An article published in the Finnish Medical Journal (Suomen Lääkärilehti), based on research on tobacco policy, concluded that the high levels of travellers’ imports of tobacco products do not support Finland’s tobacco policy goals. An expert blog was also written on the basis of the study.

Research on the uptake of new cancer drugs in Finland continued. An abstract of a study was published and an article manuscript completed. The study reveals many areas for improvement in the introduction processes of anticancer drugs and will serve in particular the process of reforming the pharmaceutical care and its financing. The study also contributed to the publications of the European Cancer League’s Access to Medicines Taskforce.