During recent years, physical, technological, and clinical developments have led to improvements in radiation therapy precision, minimally invasive surgery, molecular targeted drugs, and immunotherapy. Radiation therapy plays an essential role in various multidisciplinary cancer treatment concepts in nearly all tumor entities in both curative and palliative intent. In order to further guide future development and strengthen the role of radiation oncology, the German Society for Radiation Oncology (DEGRO) working group of young clinicians and scientists (yDEGRO) and the DEGRO representation of associate and full professors (AKRO) initiated the development of a vision for the future of radiotherapy & radiation oncology in Germany.

The process of vision development, its chronology, methodology, and the one-day strategy retreat held by the yDEGRO and AKRO is presented in Fig. 1. The final vision, “Innovative radiation oncology Together – Precise, Personalized, Human” (original German phrase Innovative Radioonkologie im Team – Präzise, Personalisiert, Menschlich) and the respective interpretation and program are summarized in Tables 1 and 2. Background material regarding the vision development process as well as supporting statements by the Working Group Radiation Oncology (ARO) of the German Cancer Society, the German Society of Medical Physics (DGMP), the German Society of Radiobiology Research (DeGBS), and the Professional Association of German Radiation Oncologists (BVDST) are given in the online supplement.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Development process of German radiotherapy & radiation oncology vision “Innovative radiation oncology Together – Precise, Personalized, Human.” 1German Society for Radiation Oncology (DEGRO) working group of young clinicians and scientists and 6its alumni representatives as a link between young scientists and executives/leaders in radiotherapy and radiation oncology in Germany. 2Representation of associate and full professors of the DEGRO. 3German Society for Radiation Oncology. 4German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research. 5European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology. 7Professional Association of German Radiation Oncologists. 8German Society of Medical Physics. 9German Society of Radiobiology Research. 10Working Group Radiation Oncology of German Cancer Society. This figure contains hyperlinks highlighted in blue, which are accessible through the corresponding figure version in the supplementary material. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00066-021-01843-9#Sec1)

Table 1 Interpretation and program of the German radiotherapy & radiation oncology vision 2030 “Innovative radiation oncology Together – Precise, Personalized, Human”
Table 2 Interpretation und Programmatik der Zukunftsvision 2030 „Innovative Radioonkologie im Team – Präzise, Personalisiert, Menschlich“ der Strahlentherapie & Radioonkologie in Deutschland

The interpretation of the term “Innovative radiation oncology” highlights the role of designing and initiating clinical trials and translational research, the development of individualized treatment concepts, and the identification of new indications for radiotherapy. The critical implementation steps are formation of a national strategy committee for radiation oncology research and the expansion and coordination of third-party funded research.

The term “Together” reflects the aspect of team building within radiation oncology professions, i.e., radiation oncologists, medical physicists, radiation biologists, radiation therapists, and nursing staff. Additionally, “Together” emphasizes interdisciplinary team building among radiation oncology professionals, medical oncologists, physicians from other medical disciplines, and associated non-medical professionals, e.g., data scientists. The term also implies and emphasizes the promotion of young scientists and future scientific leaders. The central work program includes strengthening the multidisciplinary radiation oncology team and promoting closer collaborations both within and beyond radiation oncology departments, i.e., with cooperation partners. This considers a resident training rotation in cooperating disciplines, expanding clinician scientist programs, and establishing mentoring programs to inspire and encourage young researchers for a scientific career in translational research. Furthermore, the role of promoting inspiring medical, physical, and biological teaching is highlighted as a central mechanism to fascinate students for a career in radiation oncology.

The term “Precise” covers both the technical precision of image-guided adaptive radiation therapy and treatment with molecular targeted drugs within the context of multimodal oncologic treatments. The key work program involves expansion of imaging techniques and standardization of data acquisition and its use for approaches to artificial intelligence.

The term “Personalized” focuses on individualized treatment strategies that take into account biological, medical, and personal information and patients’ needs. It also promotes the development of molecular, clinical, and imaging-based biomarkers for diagnosis, response evaluation, and prognosis. The key work program includes establishing a database for multicentric collection of clinical and biological data from routine practice and clinical trials. It also addresses the integration of high-quality translational research into the design of clinical trials (from bench to bedside and back). Data analysis and classification are based on methods of medical informatics.

The term “Human” underlines the need for a continuous patient-centered approach in radiation oncology. Innovation in radiation oncology serves to improve overall patient outcome and quality of life. Patients are empowered to make conscious, informed decisions about their treatment. Furthermore, this term emphasizes the promotion of “personalities” within the respective professions and acknowledges the need to promote flexible solutions and individual career paths to balance work and family life and open up long-term academic career pathways that cater to individual needs and strengths. The key work agenda contains the establishment of a resident training program for patient-centered communication and the facilitation of comprehensive programs for psycho-oncologic support, diet counselling, and physical exercise for cancer patients. Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) should be regularly measured in clinical trials and clinical routine.

In conclusion, the vision 2030 for radiotherapy & radiation oncology in Germany reconciles the ambition of physical, technological, and biological innovation as well as a comprehensive, patient-centered, and cooperative approach in oncology.