The WHO Collaborating Center for Urologic Tumors, Karolinska

The WHO Center History and previous activites

The History

The Beginning

During the 1970's, the World Health Organization concentrated efforts to improve the management of cancer diseases, with particular reference to the developing countries. One part of this campaign was to organize ten work-groups, named WHO Collaborating Centers, focusing on specific tumor diseases, and selected by proposals from 80 cancer centers globally. The topics were lung, colon-rectum, breast, liver, cervix uterus ovaries, melanoma, urinary bladder and prostate. Following contacts between WHO Headquarters and the Government of Sweden, the center for research and treatment of urinary bladder became located to the Karolinska Institute and Hospital in Stockholm in 1976, in 1978 extended to include the prostate as well.  From the start of this center, named WHO Collaborating Center for Urologic Tumors, it has been financially supported by the Kung Gustaf V Jubilee Foundation, Radiumhemmet (Department of Oncology), Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm. The founding persons in Sweden were Professor Folke Edsmyr, at that time chief of Department of Oncology, and Professor Lennart Andersson, chief of Department of Urology.

Early year activities

During the early years of the center, the activities were mainly concentrated on tumors in the urinary bladder. Repeated conferences were organized, with a multinational participation and located either in Sweden or in the Middle East countries, mainly in Egypt, with a special focus on Bilharzia induced cancer. A concentrate of the outcomes was published in Urological Research, Vol 6, Supplement No.4, 1978.

The first WHO Collaborating Center Meeting on Prostate Cancer was organized in Stockholm in 1979.  Scand J Urol Nephrol Suppl 55, 1980. The meeting presented a broad updated review of the present state of concepts, with 180 participants from European countries, USA, Canada, and some African and Asian countries. The presentations inspired Dr L. H. Sobin, at that time pathological expert of WHO, to write the following poem which he presented at the end of the sessions.

When you deal with prostate cancer
You are looking for the answer
What's the therapy that really is the best;
Shall we give irradiation
Choose prostatic extirpation
Or give estrogens with X-rays to the breast?

Keeps the New York men alive
Especially those with T1 or T2;
Intracapsular castration
Cytostatic application
But perhaps placebo only is what´s due.

It is easy to forget
When you´re caught up in this net
That we´re also after quality of life;
So the five year rate survival
Has a most important rival:
Can the patient be sex partner with his wife?


Activities 1980 and later

WHO Classification systems

During the 1980-ies and early 1990-ies, members of our panel collaborated with Dr F.K. Mostofi and his group in the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C., in revising new editions of Histological Typing of Urinary Bladder Tumors and Histological Typing of Prostate Tumors. Among the aims were to bring clarity in some various preexisting terminologies, to include new entities of malignant lesions, and to define non-malignant lesions. Scientists from 10 countries took part in this work, most of them pathologists and cytologists, but also a few urologists and basic scientists.

WHO International Consultations

In the decades 1980 up to now, one dominating part of activities has been so-called WHO-associated International Consultations, focusing on topics of wide-embracing character in which we have felt there was a need for a more science-based or more updated clinical management, and in a few instances where the prevailing concepts were controversial at the time. Based on surveillance of the global burden of the respective tumor disease or diseases, we make an inventory of centers or institutions where research focusing on the relevant topics or where good expertise is available. We invite a number of experts in the frontline of research to collaborate with us and, after a time for preparation, come together for a conference at the WHO Center in Stockholm. The faculty covers a variety of expertise, including practicing clinicians. Their work is non-salaried. The Consultations are open to a public, and the proceedings published have the ambition to be representative of current science-based concept.

The WHO-associated International Consultations during the last two decades:

WHO Conference on Urinary Bladder Cancer, 1982,
October 11-13, Publ Montedison Pharma, Sweden.

WHO Center Symposium on Urinary Bladder Cancer, 1985, September 5-6.

Nordic-Egyptian Conference on Bladder Cancer, 1986, June 12-14.

Conference on Early Prostatic Cancer, 1990,
March 21-23, Acta Oncologica Vol 30, No 2, 1991.

Diagnosis and Prognostic Parameters in Localized Prostate Cancer, 1993, May 12-13, Scand J Urol Nephrol, Suppl 162, 1994.

Design of Clinical Trials on Prostate Cancer, 1996, September 12-13.
Urology, Vol 49, Suppl to No 4 A, 1997.

Premalignant Lesions in the Genito-urinary Tract, 2000, June 8-9. 
Scand J Urol Nephrol, Vol 43, Suppl 205, 2000.

Prediction of Patient Outcome in Prostate Cancer, Prognostic Factors 2004, September 9-12. Scand J Urol Nephrol, Suppl 216, 2005.

Bladder Cancer – from Pathogenesis to Prevention, 2008, April 24-25.
Scand J Urol Nephrol, Suppl 218, 2008.

Prostate Cancer: Screening, Prevention and Therapy – Lessons Learnt from Current Trials September 8-10, 2010.


Postgraduate teaching lectures

Annual lectures are organized to serve post-graduate teaching in genito-urinary oncology. Those lectures are entitled Folke Edsmyr Memorial Lectures in commemoration of one of the founders of the WHO Center, Professor Folke Edsmyr.

The following lectures have been presented up to 2010

1988 Olof Alfthan, Helsinki:  Endocrine therapy in prostate cancer.
1989 Sten Sander, Oslo: Laser therapy in localized prostate cancer and bladder cancer.
1990 Michele Pavone-Macaluso, Palermo: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy in invasive tumors of the urinary bladder.
1991 Louis Denis, Antwerpen: Controversies in prostate cancer treatment.
1992 Olbjørn Klepp, Trondheim: Malignant testicular tumors – can therapy be further improved?
1993 Lennart Andersson, Stockholm: Prostate cancer.
1994 Cora Sternberg, Rome: Urinary bladder cancer – is organ preservation with cytostatic treatment and irradiation a future alternative to cystectomy?
1995 Howard Scher, New York: Hormone-relapsed prostate cancer – new concepts and therapeutic approaches.
1996 Sophie Fosså, Oslo: Fertility in patients with testicular cancer.
1997 Peter Ekman, Stockholm. Prostate cancer – heridity or environmental?
1998 Zvi Fuks, New York: Dose escalation with three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy affects the outcome in early stage prostate cancer.
1999 Hein Van Poppel, Leuven: Controversies in the surgical management of kidney cancer.
2000 Jack A Schalken, Nijmegen: Molecular medicine in urology: The translation of basic science into clinical practice.
2001 Per Olov Hedlund, Stockholm: Encounter with the prostate cancer patient.
2002 Fritz H. Schröder, Rotterdam: Screening for prostate cancer – an update.
2003 Peter T. Scardino, New York: Clinically localized prostate cancer: Critical issues in treatment selection.
2004 Cancelled due to illness.
2005 Simon Horenblas, Amsterdam: More with less: Treatment of penile cancer.
2006 Hans-Inge Peterson, Göteborg: The patient – a load or an asset?
2007 Gunnar Aus, Göteborg: Guidelines – science in our clinical management or mainly nonsense?
2008 Per-Anders Abrahamsson, Malmö: Future diagnostics, prognostics and therapy in prostate cancer.
2009 Anders Magnusson, Uppsala: Radiological diagnosis in urinary tract tumors: old problems – new options.
2010 Professor Åke Andrén-Sandberg, Stockholm:
Optimal security and good quality - lodestars in the surgeon's acting




WHO Collaborating Center for Urologic Tumors
Department of Oncology (Radiumhemmet)
Karolinska University Hospital
SE- 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden
Tel +46 8 5177 2123
Fax +46 8 307771

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden

© 2021, WHO Center for Urologic Tumors | Latest changed 5.3.2012