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Leaving no stone unturned — Europe beating cancer, together

European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides’ pledge to leaving “no stone unturned”[1] marked the beginning of a new era for cancer patients across the European Union in 2021. Europe, representing 10 percent of the population and yet 25 percent of the world’s cancer cases[2], has welcomed Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. Launched with the promise of eradicating inequalities faced by cancer patients across and within EU member countries, it is a strong political commitment to tackle every single stage of the cancer care pathway that ultimately confirms that yes, we can put an end to this suffering by working together.

Europe, representing 10 percent of the population and yet 25 percent of the world’s cancer cases, has welcomed Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.

Accompanied by the EU Mission on Cancer[3], an essential component of making the ambitions of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan a reality, the Commission’s plan kicked off with decisive steps: a clear Implementation Roadmap[4], structured governance, funding and tangible measurable progress markers, including the creation of the Knowledge Centre on Cancer and the upcoming European Commission proposal for an updated EU Council recommendation on cancer screening.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations’ (EFPIA) Oncology Platform is delighted to see European institutions finally prioritizing cancer care, which will positively impact patients, caregivers, families and health care systems.

Cancer is a policy priority due to the negative domino effect it has on society at large. We cannot – and will not – sit and wait. Policy priorities will only transform us into a true cancer-controlled Union that says no to needless suffering if cancer policy is kept high in the political agenda. We need the EU Commission to support member countries to implement the necessary measures. With the EU Parliament voicing support and the EU Council working alongside them, together we can address cancer challenges and eliminate the backlogs catalyzed by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.

Cancer is a policy priority due to the negative domino effect it has on society at large. We cannot – and will not – sit and wait.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is the first step, but the journey is long

The European Commission, supported by the cancer stakeholder community, has the power to encourage policies to prevent and detect new cases, and to help people with a cancer diagnosis thrive — but not just by wishing it. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan marks an unprecedented political commitment to noncommunicable diseases, but for it to become sustainable and efficient, cancer will need to remain high on the policy agenda at EU level. Momentum cannot be lost due to unexpected crises and shocks, shifting health priorities or changes to political structures in the years to come — every year is essential to a successful implementation of the Beating Cancer Plan’s measures and milestones.

The plan will need strong commitment from member countries and in return member countries will benefit from harmonized guidance

The goal of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is clear: to “help Member States turn the tide against cancer”[5]. To achieve this, it is essential to support member countries. This must not only be in the form of funding to match the increasing incidence and burden of the disease. Ongoing, evidence-based leadership, as well as monitoring implementation is needed, to ensure that all patients across the Union benefit, not just some. Clear analysis of progress against milestones will be essential, with accountability at EU and at national levels. For member countries to be able to move forward, updated national cancer control plans aligned with the EU’s ambitions are needed — particularly for those who have not published updates for over a decade (or ever).

Cancer simply does not wait: four-week delays for treatment have been associated with a 6-13 percent increase in the risk of death. The longer the delay, the more chance it is fatal.

Cancer will not wait for other shocking events to be over

Already long, waiting lists have been further impacted by recent crises, most importantly the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. While resources have had to be moved around, many cancer patients have been deprived of life-changing, even life-saving care, leading to backlogs and delays. Cancer simply does not wait: four-week delays for treatment have been associated with a 6-13 percent increase in the risk of death[6]. The longer the delay, the more chance it is fatal.

***

The EFPIA Oncology Platform was created with the aim of fostering a policy environment that transforms the lives of patients diagnosed with cancer, and we won’t rest until this becomes a reality for every single one of them. Through our work, we equip institutions across the Union to help them make informed, evidence-based decisions that put patients and their environments at the core.

EFPIA is of course not alone. Many other stakeholders across Europe are doing their best to support decision-makers, partnering and collaborating to bring innovative solutions to the conversation. While the EU is now juggling multiple health care needs, any slowdown in efforts to fight against cancer would simply mean that all progress was in vain. Oncology is an investment and not a cost, and that must be understood by the EU institutions and member countries. In the conclusion of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the Commission reiterated the importance of working together to “make a difference and defeat cancer” — so today we ask the EU to continue partnering and leveraging the work from the cancer community to support member countries and, above all, patients.

Time to act — and to stay focused — is now.

Better outcome for cancer patients, better outcome for all.


[1] European Commission: Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (2021). Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/health/system/files/2022-02/eu_cancer-plan_en_0.pdf.

[2]Joint Research Centre (2022). Cancer in Europe: 5 things the data tells us. Available at: https://joint-research-centre.ec.europa.eu/jrc-news/cancer-europe-5-things-data-tells-us-2022-01-13_en

[3] European Commission (2021). EU Mission: Cancer. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/funding/funding-opportunities/funding-programmes-and-open-calls/horizon-europe/eu-missions-horizon-europe/cancer_en

[4] European Commission (2022). Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: Implementation Roadmap. Available at : https://ec.europa.eu/health/system/files/2022-01/2021-2025_cancer-roadmap1_en_0.pdf

[5] European Commission: Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (2021). Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/health/system/files/2022-02/eu_cancer-plan_en_0.pdf.

[6] Hanna, et al. (2020) Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. Available at: https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m408

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