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Why Lyon ?

Lyon is now a major actor in oncology at European scale and holds 5th place in Europe in terms of scientific and medical publications in the domain of cancer.

Lyon benefits from the leading role played by several therapeutic groups, and the niches in which the Synergie Lyon Cancer Foundation has invested its efforts:

Thus many actors in oncology are working in Lyon, on various themes giving better visibility and accessibility to research. The following can be mentioned, for example:

  • the high level teams of INSERM, CNRS and the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, that supply the personnel invested in research for Synergie Lyon Cancer;
  • the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO centre with its activities in epidemiology and environmental carcinogenesis on which the Foundation relies;
  • the CLARA Cancer Cluster which works to speed up the implementation of new translational research projects within the region;
  • Lyonbiopôle, the international cluster specialised in infectology.

Many major actors in the field of oncology work in Lyon, favouring strong collaborations with the pharmaceutical companies installed in the region, such a Merck, Sanofi and bioMérieux, and they participate in the creation of innovative start-ups such as ERYtech pharma and Netrispharma.

Lastly, Synergie Lyon can count on the considerable clinical expertise provided by two healthcare establishments, namely the Hospices Civils de Lyon and the Léon Bérard Centre. These two establishments represent the second largest national concentration of oncological expertise in France after the Institut Curie de Paris.

It therefore appeared natural in 2007 to answer the call for projects launched by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research for a project of excellence in oncology in

Lyon: the result was the selection of the “Synergie Lyon Cancer” project.

Lyon has become a major actor in oncology in France due to its concentration of laboratories, hospital centres, and pharmaceutical and medical companies. However, this concentration is also due to its history!

Lyon, an enterprising city

To start with there was the foundation of the Hôtel-Dieu as far back as 12th century. It was to become one of Lyon’s largest hospitals and Rabelais was a doctor there for several years, publishing his works in Lyon, well-known at the time for its printing workshops and medical publications.

The major event for oncology in Lyon occurred in 1923. Professor Léon Bérard founded the first anti-cancer centre and provided 60 beds for patients suffering from cancer, under the great dome of the Hôtel-Dieu. The beds were then moved to one of the pavilions of the present Edouard Herriot Hospital.

In 1950, Dr Paul Santy instigated the creation of a centre wholly dedicated to oncology several blocks away, providing 300 beds from the day it opened. It was called the Léon Bérard Centre.

Auguste Lumière financed the radiography of the first anti-cancer centre and two care rooms. It is noteworthy that he was very interested in medical research and was the inventor of Petrolatum Gauze.

Lyon, a city of medical and scientific networks

The second major event for Lyonnais oncology was the installation of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), linked to the WHO.

It was Emmanuel D’Astier de la Vigerie, supported by a group of French intellectuals, who was behind the decision taken by General de Gaulle to set up the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Deeply affected by the letter of a man who had seen his wife suffer and die of cancer, D’Astier de la Vigerie asked General de Gaulle to act. The General was especially ready to respond since he himself had lost two persons close to him to during the same period. Encouraged by Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie, he proposed that the major powers should levy a percentage from their military budgets to “found an international institution dedicated to the combat for life, under the effective control of qualified UN institutions”. The IARC began its operations in May 1965 and was installed in Lyon in 1967.

The IARC is now part of the WHO and employs more than 300 researchers. It collaborates with different organisations in Lyon such as the INSERM, the Ligue Contre le Cancer, the Cancer Research Centre of Lyon and care centres.

Though time and driven by the combined ambitions of different actors (doctors, researchers, institutions, local authorities), a closely knit scientific and medical network has been woven in Lyon.

The city of Lyon is situated at a geographically strategic position:

  • it is located at a European crossroads: lying between the North Sea and the Mediterranean, it is also within reach of the Atlantic Ocean;
  • it is halfway between Marseille and Paris;
  • and its position on the Rhone ensures its strong industrial development. A large number of petrochemical companies have installations in the region, and other activities, such as textiles, are well represented.

Time and the change of the industrial paradigm have led to the progressive rise of pharmaceutical, chemical and biotech industries which have set up in Lyon and its region.

With a population of around 500,000, Lyon is now France’s 3rd largest city. Culturally, Lyon is on a par with the largest European capitals. It offers a formidable heritage for both the curious and gourmets:

  • Cultural (two of its districts are classed as world heritage sites by UNESCO);
  • Architectural (the works of Tony Garnier, the murals paintings, the buildings of the Canuts (TN. name given to the 18th-19th silk weavers);
  • Historic (vestiges of Lugdunum, the city of Jean Moulin, the revolt of the Canuts) ;
  • Gastronomic (Bocuse, Bonnet, Chavent, Constantin, Hubert, Le Bec, Orsi, Têtedoie, Tissot, Viannay and many other chefs, and not the least, with Michelin stars participate in Lyon’s international reputation).