In 2003, as the result of the combined efforts of the Ministries of Research and Health via a call for proposals, seven cancéropôles (cancer centres) were created in France (Measure 66 of the French Cancer Plan) including the Cancéropôle Grand Ouest.
Over a given area the cancer centres combine the research units of organisations (INSERM, CNRS, universities, CEA, etc.), the university hospital services and sometimes industrialists. Their aim is to contribute to the reinforcement of research and to coordinate it in a transfer approach, from patient to patient. In the case of the Cancéropôle Grand Ouest, the regions of Brittany, Centre, Pays de la Loire and Poitou-Charentes at once became partners and have chosen to contribute to its financing.
It should be noted that the inter-regional nature of the cancer centres had not been envisaged at first by the Cancer Plan. This inter-regional dimension has resulted from the exceptional mobilisation of researchers and clinicians during the 2003 call for project tenders. The researchers themselves estimated that larger critical mass, obtained in an inter-regional framework, would allow greater competitiveness in research. In this sense, the Cancer Plan organisational objective has not only been achieved but surpassed.
The geography of the cancer centres more or less covers that of the great European economic regions and has made sense for the main geographical organisations employed in the field of research and care: inter-regional university centres, inter-CHU groups, inter-regional clinical research management. In 2004 a call for additional proposals made it possible to select 32 organisational projects and to consolidate emerging entities.
Created by the Public Health Law of 9 August 2004, the French National Cancer Institute found itself tasked with driving and coordinating the national research effort in cancerology.