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Develop new methods and technologies for cancer screening and early detection

Health & Life Sciences
Project Size:

Expected Outcome: Prevention is the most cost-effective long-term cancer control strategy. In EU-27 and Associated countries, population-based screening programmes exist for three types of cancer (breast, cervical and colorectal cancer), which are often not risk-based. Screening and early detection should become faster, more precise, accessible and affordable. This requires new, sound methods and technologies, including data analytics tools and computing capacities, as well as a robust communication strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic with its detrimental impact on cancer screening and early detection has demonstrated the need for new and improved screening and early detection solutions.

Proposals under this topic should aim for delivering results that are directed at and contributing to all of the following expected outcomes

  • Healthy citizens and cancer patients will benefit from faster, earlier, more precise, personalised, accessible and affordable screening and early detection of cancer.
  • Health care professionals will be able to deliver earlier, faster, more precise screening and early detection of cancer.
  • Health policy makers will have the evidence to review population-based screening programmes and screening and early detection methodologies in everyday medical practice, and to include new, evidence-based screening and early detection methods, technologies and solutions.


Research is needed to develop and validate non-invasive, or minimally invasive cancer screening and detection methodologies for everyday medical practice and population-based screening programmes[1], including enhanced participation of the target population. These programmes should become faster, more precise and personalised, affordable and accessible.

Proposals should address all of the following:

  • Based on weaknesses, gaps and possibilities for further development of existing screening and early detection methods and technologies (including those used in population-based screening programmes), develop and validate non-invasive (or minimally-invasive) cancer screening and detection methodologies. This includes ‘integrated diagnostics’[2] based on, for example, imaging, tissue, fluid or exhaled breath gas biomarkers, and agile screening methodologies including digital technologies (such as self-sampling, mobile screening units, digital apps or smart wearables, sensors, telemedicine and remote monitoring technologies combined with sophisticated data analytics tools), duly considering digital and health literacy of people.
  • Proposals should assess the potential uptake of these methods and technologies in national health systems, clearly identify the target population and consider implementation needs (including health workforce skills). Applicants should also consider aspects of effectiveness, affordability and accessibility when proposing solutions, particularly to enhance participation of the target population.
  • Proposals should consider the use of living labs or other implementation research models that use open knowledge and (social) innovation systems and support end-user engagement.
  • The influence of age and early-life factors and determinants; genetic risk; socio-economic status; behavioural, including lifestyle risk factors; environmental factors; as well as social, cultural, sex and gender aspects, including inequalities, should be taken into account across all aspects mentioned above. In addition, differences within and between countries and regions should also be reflected.

Expected stage at project start: Technological Readiness Level 4 and above.

This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities.

Due consideration should also be given to other relevant EU-funded initiatives[3]. Successful applicants will be asked to liaise with these different initiatives where applicable[4], with the Commission acting as a facilitator.

The funded actions should build upon resources made available by the Knowledge Centre on Cancer[5], and complement actions under the future Innovative Health Initiative, EIT Health Knowledge Innovation Community initiatives[6], and the Digital Europe programme (Cancer Imaging Initiative, Genomics)[7].

Furthermore, all projects funded under this topic are strongly encouraged to participate in networking and joint activities with other ongoing projects under the mission on cancer and other cancer relevant projects, as appropriate. These networking and joint activities could, for example, involve the participation in joint workshops, the exchange of knowledge, the development and adoption of best practices, or joint communication activities. This could also involve networking and joint activities with projects funded under other clusters and pillars of Horizon Europe, or other EU programmes, as appropriate. Of particular importance in this context is topic HORIZON-MISS-2021-COOR-01-01, “Coordination of complementary actions for missions”.

The Commission may facilitate Mission-specific coordination through future actions. Therefore, proposals should include a budget for the attendance to regular joint meetings and may consider covering the costs of any other potential joint activities without the prerequisite to detail concrete joint activities at this stage. The details of these joint activities will be defined during the grant agreement preparation phase and project duration. In this regard, the Commission will take on the role of facilitator for networking and exchanges, including with relevant initiatives and stakeholders, if appropriate.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Societal Engagement
Social Innovation
EOSC and FAIR data
Socio-economic science and humanities

[1]Refers to secondary prevention

[2]Combines information from radiology, imaging, pathology, genetics, genomics, phenotyping, laboratory testing, information technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.

[3]Such as HealthyCloud, EOSC-Life and the European Health Data Space (EHDS) Joint Action. Topics HORIZON-INFRA-EOSC-2021-01-06 (FAIR and open data sharing in support of cancer research), HORIZON-INFRA-SERV-2021-01-01 (Research infrastructures services to support research addressing cancer), HORIZON-HLTH-2021-DISEASE-04-01 (Improved supportive, palliative, survivorship and end-of-life care of cancer patients), HORIZON-HLTH-2021-CARE-05-02 (Data-driven decision-support tools for better health care delivery and policy-making with a focus on cancer).

[4]Applicants are not expected to contact these initiatives before the submission of proposals.

[5]Especially through the ’European Guidelines and Quality Assurance Schemes for Breast, Colorectal and Cervical Cancer Screening and Diagnosis‘, and the ’European Cancer Information System (ECIS)’, see



General conditions

1. Admissibility conditions: described in Annex A and Annex E of the Horizon Europe Work Programme General Annexes

Proposal page limits and layout: described in Part B of the Application Form available in the Submission System

2. Eligible countries: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes

A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide.

3. Other eligibility conditions: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes

4. Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in Annex C of the Work Programme General Annexes

5. Evaluation and award:

  • Award criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex D of the Work Programme General Annexes
  • Submission and evaluation processes are described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes and the Online Manual
  • Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes

6. Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in Annex G of the Work Programme General Annexes

Specific conditions

7. Specific conditions: described in the [specific topic of the Work Programme]


Call documents:

Standard application form — call-specific application form is available in the Submission System

Standard application form (HE RIA, IA)

Standard evaluation form — will be used with the necessary adaptations

Standard evaluation form (HE RIA, IA)


HE General MGA v1.0

Call-specific instructions

Essential Information for Clinical Studies

Additional documents:

HE Main Work Programme 2021–2022 – 1. General Introduction

HE Main Work Programme 2021–2022 – 12. Missions

HE Main Work Programme 2021–2022 – 13. General Annexes

HE Programme Guide

HE Framework Programme and Rules for Participation Regulation 2021/695

HE Specific Programme Decision 2021/764

EU Financial Regulation

Rules for Legal Entity Validation, LEAR Appointment and Financial Capacity Assessment

EU Grants AGA — Annotated Model Grant Agreement

Funding & Tenders Portal Online Manual

Funding & Tenders Portal Terms and Conditions

Funding & Tenders Portal Privacy Statement

The goal of the mission on cancer is to improve the lives of more than 3 million people by 2030, through prevention, cure and for those affected by cancer including their families, to live longer and better. The objectives include: Understand; Prevent what is preventable; Optimise diagnostics and treatment; Support quality of life; Ensure equitable access in all aforementioned areas. The Mission on Cancer will address all cancers including poorly understood cancers[1] in men and women, cancers in children, adolescents/young adults and the elderly, cancers in socio-economically vulnerable people, living in either cities, rural or remote areas, across all Member States and Associated countries.

This would be through a health-in-all policies approach[2]; through infrastructure support, regional, social and citizen community development; through investments, support and commitments from public and private sources, including from Member States, Associated countries and industry; through cooperation with third countries; and through synergies with other existing EU programmesIncluding EU4HEALTH, EURATOM, Digital Europe, Erasmus+, EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027 and others and initiatives related to cancer.

The Mission on Cancer is coherent with and will be an essential and integral component of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan[3]. It will provide directions and objectives for research and innovation and effective Commission policy to alleviate the burden of cancer.

It also relates to the European Green Deal, including the Farm to Fork strategy[4]. The mission proposes research and policy directions and objectives to identify effective strategies for the development and implementation of cancer prevention, including on environmental factors (e.g. exposure to workplace carcinogens, air pollution, unhealthy diet, nutrition and low physical activity).

Furthermore, it is also in line with the industrial[5] and digitalisation strategy[6]. The mission proposes a further upscaling and digitalisation of services, innovation in diagnostics and interventions, and developing living labs, contributing to the positive impact of efforts by industry and SMEs on the health of citizens. Envisaged opportunities are in the fields of: cancer biomarkers; cloud computing and digital applications, smart apps/sensors. The mission also supports the integration of AI, machine learning and deep learning approaches to facilitate a better understanding of cancer, to improve prevention screening and early detection, diagnosis, clinical decision-making, administration of combinational therapies, and clinical management of patients living with and after cancer.

Calls for proposals and procurement actions under this mission should contribute to setting out a credible pathway for implementing the Mission on Cancer, thereby contributing to the mission objectives.

The implementation plan specifies the goal and objectives as well as implementation details of the mission “Cancer”[7].

In addition to the calls described below, the Commission envisages several actions that will be included in a future work programme update[8]: In the field of prevention the Commission envisages an action on implementation research on cancer prevention. In the area of diagnosis and treatment, the Commission envisages the implementation of clinical trials on treatments, using personalised medicine approaches and a focus on improving quality of life. The Commission further envisages actions to support the creation of a Network of Comprehensive Cancer Infrastructures (CCIs) with a focus on integrating the research dimension. In the field of quality of life, the Commission envisages to support the setting up the European Cancer Patient Digital Centre and to further expand on actions addressing unmet needs of cancer patients and survivors. Furthermore, actions are foreseen to create National Cancer related Mission Hubs, to support the monitoring of the Mission’s implementation, citizens engagement and communication.

[1]                      Includes refractory cancers or cancer subtypes, at any stage of the disease in any age group and part of society with a 5-year overall survival that is less than 50% from time of diagnosis.

[2]                      Health in All Policies is an approach to public policies across sectors that systematically takes into account the health implications of decisions, seeks synergies, and avoids harmful health impacts in order to improve population health and health equity.






[8]                      The listed areas for potential actions are tentative and non-binding.

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