CSF Visit to Oncopole

Approach to Entrance

On a glorious spring day at the end of March, five members of CSF Sud Tarn met up with 3 members of CSF Gascony for a tour around Oncopole in Toulouse, or more accurately the University Cancer Institute of Toulouse in Oncopole, IUCT Oncopole for short. If all this fuss over names seems a bit long-winded, it is because Oncopole itself is just huge, a 220 hectare campus including two major pharmaceutical manufacturers, a biopark, research groups including the Institute Claudius Regaud, hotels and the institute itself with 306 beds, in- and out-patient surgical facilities, its own pharmacy, etc, etc, etc. The visit had been set up for us by Gail Taillefer who herself works in the Institute in the field of Patients’ Rights and she expertly clarified the background to the formation of Oncopole and all its ramifications.

Map of Oncopole site


Oncopole is a heart-warming (and not a little ironic) example of what can grow out of a horrifyingly negative event, as it is built on the ground devastated by the explosion of the AZF chemical factory on September 21st 2001. The blast measured 3.4 on the Richter scale, shattered nearly every window in Toulouse and left 31 dead and 2,500 wounded. If you are interested in more details check out: www.aria.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/wp-content/files_mf/FD_21329_TOULOUSE_DP_JLC_GB_29072013.pdf

The first impression you get on entering the Institute is not so much space as light. The patients’ rooms are arranged in two huge curves like a letter ‘m’ so that each one gets its share of the sunshine. It looks for all the world like a cruise liner or a very posh hotel.

  Outside view

Behind is the ‘passerelle,’ two corridors 180m long that link physicians and researchers in a seamless interplay that is the guiding force behind the whole development.

The Institute at Oncopole specialises mainly in haematology and women’s, skin and ENT cancers but Toulouse has two other centres for cancer treatments at IUCT Purpan and IUCT Rangueil-Larrey and the three work as one in research and treatment of all types of cancer.

 Internal stair wellInternal hall way

After lunch it was up to Alexandre from the communications department, supported by Gail who is an absolute mine of information on all matters Oncopole, to give us the detailed tour of the building. Alexandre is justifiably proud of the institute and though he is at pains to explain that IUCT Oncopole may not be the biggest in France, he assures us it is certainly the best and the most innovative.

For example IUCT Oncopole not only has nuclear imagery facilities, described as the next generation of PET scan, and offers nuclear medecine and brachytherapy but is also trialling hypnotherapy as an alternative to anaesthesia.

To recount the whole of our tour would take thousands of words. A detailed picture of the entire development can be found on www.iuct-oncopole.fr

From a personal point of view I can only say that if I develop cancer again I couldn’t be living in a better part of the world and if anyone can send the little beast packing it is the small (well not so small) anti-cancer army in Toulouse.

Helene Barratt, CSF-Sud, Tarn