In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the HARMONIC consortium met virtually to discuss the project’s progress and future actions

Instead of travelling to Pisa, Italy, as originally planned, HARMONIC team members had to stay home and interact with the other project partners via their computer screens. Despite these limitations, the project’s second annual meeting, held on November 16 and 17, was very productive.

The first year of the project was dedicated to develop the infrastructure and legal framework for the inclusion of patients in the two paediatric cohorts. All protocols are in place and activities which could be launched remotely have already made good progress” says Isabelle Thierry-Chef, HARMONIC project leader.

The consortium has made headway with several project tasks:

  • The database for retrospective and prospective inclusion of cancer patients is being finalised and tested.
  • The methods for the establishment of the cohort of cardiac patients and for dose reconstruction and epidemiological analyses has been published.
  • Strategies and tools for dose reconstruction are being developed and validated by means of on-phantom measurements, and a series of technical papers have been published.
  • Pilot studies on blood and saliva samples are being performed to validate the proposed molecular investigations.

During the two-day meeting, members of the different work packages discussed ongoing work, from dose reconstruction challenges and biomarkers of radiation exposure, to the establishment of paediatric cohorts and quality of life assessments. They also discussed delays due to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as possible mitigation measures such as local data collection while finalising the legal framework for exchange of data.

The meeting ended with comments from the Advisory Board members, who recognised there had been good progress despite the delays due to the current pandemic situation, and put forward some considerations for further improvements.

The overall goal of the HARMONIC project is to better understand the health effects of exposure to medical ionising radiation in children, specifically cancer patients treated with modern radiotherapy techniques, and cardiac patients treated with X-ray guided imaging procedure. The next annual meeting of the consortium will take place in the second half of 2021, hopefully this time in person.