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Uncovering the PERSIST project underpinning idea in its current perspective

Survival rates in cases of certain cancer types have improved over the last years. That means there will be more and more people who will get this perspective, and many will have unmet needs that should be satisfied. Addressing it requires a strong political commitment of the European Union and its Member States. The PERSIST project (Patients-centered SurvivorShIp care plan after Cancer treatments based on Big Data and Artificial Intelligence technologies) began to solve these issues already in 2020.

The most common cancer sites are breast, followed by the large bowel and its last section. This is why the PERSIST project focuses on people who have once experienced any of these two types (breast or colorectal cancer). The project offers monitoring of the survivors by modern technologies (smart phones, smart bracelets, and a new mHealth app). It hopes to prove that by active usage of the mHealth app the participants will enhance their self-efficacy in comparison to the beginning of the project. At the same time, the Clinical Decision Support system developed by PERSIST will be of great assistance for doctors in their everyday duties. Hopefully, all this taken together will improve the quality of life for patients after treatment. This concept includes psychological health, sleep quality, compliance of the participants in medicine use, and others.

In parallel to preparing the launch of the PERSIST project, the Mission Board for Cancer was established in 2019. It is an informal Commission expert group foreseen in the amendment of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme to be active until the entry into force of the Horizon Europe Framework programme. Already during the 2nd meeting of the Mission Board for Cancer on September 25-26, 2019, its members exchanged their views on the growing cancer burden and discussed the first ideas. The decision was made to set up four sub-groups on the following themes: understanding, prevention, treatment, and survivorship as written in the minutes.

Later, the above-mentioned themes were expanded into the form of 13 recommendations of the Mission Board for Cancer. There are two recommendations that come under the spotlight from the perspective of the PERSIST project:

“7. Develop an EU-wide research programme and policy support to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors, family members and carers, and all persons with an increased risk of cancer.

  1. Create a European Cancer Patient Digital Centre where cancer patients and survivors can deposit and share their data for personalised care.”

The recommendations are referred to in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, presented in February 2021. This document reflects one of the main priorities of the European Commission in the health sector. There are four key action areas where the EU can add the most value: (1) prevention; (2) early detection; (3) diagnosis and treatment; and (4) quality of life of cancer patients and survivors.

By coupling research and innovation, the PERSIST project of the Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme is helping to achieve this vision since January 2020 when it started.

A major challenge is to provide evidence base and tools for the development of policy strategies to improve personalised follow-up care and the quality of life after treatment. Therefore, 13 entities from 10 countries are involved in this international research based on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. The PERSIST clinical study is carried out simultaneously in four countries (Latvia, Slovenia, Belgium, and Spain) and is involving 160 patients. The study is led by the Institute of Clinical and Preventive Medicine of the University of Latvia in collaboration with the Oncology Centre of Latvia within the Riga East Clinical University Hospital.

The initial results have already been achieved. The clinical trial targets a demand towards increased awareness and self-efficacy of the participants (engagement in their care plans). To address this demand, the mHealth app capable of collecting patient gathered health data and patient reported outcomes is being evaluated. The study is envisaged to highlight the main benefits of digital interventions (Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Digital Sensing). Satisfaction with care and reduced psychological distress as well as avoidance of secondary diseases are among them. Besides, the reduced socio-economic burden related to care for survivors is expected as a long-term result.

The PERSIST project is making a step forward and is an achievement that paves the way for a joint approach to fighting cancer in the Member States and on the outside.


Author: Institute of Clinical and Preventive Medicine of the University of Latvia




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