From 12 to 14 May 2021, Luxembourg is hosting the 45th Annual Meeting of the Group of Cancer Epidemiology and Registration in Latin Language Countries (GRELL).

During this three-day conference, around 150 international scientists, clinicians, healthcare professionals and policymakers from seventeen nations will gather for the 45th edition of the GRELL conference which, due to the pandemic, is taking place in a fully virtual format. This edition is dedicated to the memory of the late Dr Michel Untereiner, oncologist and Scientific Director of the RNC between January 2013 and March 2021.

Organised in Luxembourg for the first time by the National Cancer Registry of Luxembourg (Registre National du Cancer - RNC) at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), the meeting features several prominent speakers, providing an opportunity to discuss the latest developments in the field of cancer epidemiology with a particular focus on COVID-19 and cancer, as well as childhood and adolescent cancers.

The conference will begin on Wednesday afternoon with an opening statement from Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. As the Honorary President of  Fondation Cancer, the Grand Duchess is committed to the fight against cancer, having supported several Luxembourgish charities and research institutes active in this field over the years.

The first day of the conference is dedicated to a webinar on COVID-19 and cancer, which features a series of Luxembourg speakers and moderators, including Dr Carole Bauer (Fondation Cancer Luxembourg), Prof Gilbert Massard (University of Luxembourg), Dr Sophie Couffignal (Head of the LIH Public Health Expertise unit and Operational Director of the Luxembourg National Cancer Registry), Dr Guy Berchem (Associated Medical Director at LIH and President of the National Cancer Institute of Luxembourg), Dr Claudine Backes (Epidemiologist for the Luxembourg National Cancer Registry at LIH) and Prof Michel Mittelbronn from the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS), alongside international experts. Through two keynote sessions and a panel session, the speakers will address some of the key clinical challenges related to cancer during COVID-19 times, namely the effect of the current pandemic on cancer registration, incidence, diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for patients.

The webinar will be followed by a two-day virtual panel conference on Thursday and Friday, featuring an opening speech from Luxembourg's Minister of Health, Paulette Lenert. Prof. Aline Müller, CEO of the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER), will also moderate a panel discussion on the socio-economic determinants of cancer, with a specific focus on social inequalities.

In addition, international experts will deliver two keynote speaker sessions on childhood and adolescent cancers, moderated by Anne Goeres (Director of Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner). Speakers include Dr Eva Steliarova-Foucher (International Agency for Research on Cancer, France) and Prof Kathy Pritchard-Jones (International Society of Paediatric Oncology & University College London, UK). These sessions will explore aspects such as the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer, the evolution in childhood cancer survival rates and the specificities of adolescent cancers.

On Friday, attention will be given to the epidemiological and clinical use of cancer registry data around the world, looking at the prevalence, incidence and prognosis of various type of cancers. Dr Sean Sapcariu (Programme Manager, Luxembourg National Research Fund - FNR) and Prof Walter Ricciardi, President of the Horizon Europe Mission Board for Cancer, will introduce this cancer. Dr Guy Fagherazzi, Director of the LIH Department of Population Health, will also moderate a session dedicated to the advent of new digital methods and technologies to analyse cancer registry data and trends.

“Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing restrictions, we were determined to ensure the continuity of the cancer epidemiology conferences and pursue our fight against cancer. We therefore decided to hold this year’s GRELL meeting in a fully virtual format, giving the opportunity to experts from Europe but also from Latin America and Africa to participate, while making it as engaging and interactive as the previous editions", explained Dr Claudine Backes, LIH Epidemiologist for the Luxembourg National Cancer Registry and president of the GRELL 2021 organising committee. "Indeed, to complement the 29 highly compelling scientific oral presentations, we have put in place virtual exhibition stands, 78 e-Poster sessions and multiple other means of communication, such as virtual coffee rooms, which will provide dynamic networking opportunities, thereby fostering fruitful discussions and exchanges between all participants”.

A virtual video tour of the Grand Duchy is also foreseen as part of the programme.

“We are delighted to have been able to count on the support and active participation of all key players in the national oncology field, particularly given the recent launch of the second National Cancer Plan, which further shows the highly collaborative framework and united front adopted by all parties involved in the ongoing fight against cancer”, concluded Dr Sophie Couffignal, Operational Director of the Luxembourg National Cancer Registry and Luxembourg Representative to the GRELL Steering Committee.

The 45th GRELL Annual Conference is financed by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) through the RESCOM: Scientific Events funding programme, and supported by the Health Directorate of Luxembourg's Ministry of Health, the LIH, Fondation Cancer, Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner, the Societé Luxembourgeoise d’Oncologie and the National Cancer Institute.