ROME, 02 May 2023: A new European attempt is underway to get more traction from the enormous international efforts devoted to combating cancer.
The huge advances in diagnosis and treatment brought by rapid advances in science and technology have brought significant improvements, backed by major investments in research and the numerous initiatives and projects and actions that have been set up around the world.
But the outcome is still sub-optimal, and cancer continues to ravage society in Europe and beyond.
CAN.HEAL, a programme funded by the EU, is driving a radical commitment to collaborate across disciplines and territories not just to advance innovation, but to bring it speedily into effective use in healthcare systems.
Cancer care can now be tailored to the specific needs of individual patients, but this approach has to be nitrated into healthcare systems so that patients – and healthcare finances – obtain the resulting benefits.
The adoption of innovative medical interventions can provide better treatment and prevent undesirable adverse reactions, at the same time as fostering a more efficient and cost-effective healthcare system that focuses on prevention as well as treatment.
The novelty of CAN.HEAL is that it is creating unprecedented connections between the world of clinical science and the world of public health. It is aiming to provide a bridge between two flagships of the European Beating Cancer Plan –’Access and Diagnostics for All’ and ‘Public Health Genomics’ – so that cutting-edge developments in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer become available faster and more widely.
The moment is right, since European healthcare is undergoing a once-in-a-generation change, with scientific advances accompanied by profound revision of the policy context. Opportunities open up for new thinking and new approaches as the regulatory framework undergoes re-evaluation, with discussions moving ahead on new pharmaceutical legislation, sharing of health data and the battle against antimicrobial resistance.
What has become increasingly clear is that an implementation gap exists between what could be done and what is being achieved, and – as the European Commission has been insistent in its reviews of policy, new forms of cooperation are needed. The next stage is to bridge the implementation gaps that exist at country level, in terms of commitment and national readiness to fund innovation and its use.
In pursuit of the necessary closer understanding, CAN.HEAL brought more than 100 stakeholders together at its first working conference, on Wednesday and Thursday April 26-27, at Italy’s National Institute of Health in Rome.
Alongside scientists and clinicians, participants included public health decision makers, representatives of the Commission, Members of the European Parliament, patient organisations, and European umbrella organizations representing interest groups and associations actively engaged in the field.
As Marc Van den Bulcke, the project coordinator, told the meeting, “We are aiming to maximise expertise through coordination. There is an urgent need for cooperation and exchange, so that distinct channels of work can converge.”
“There is no shortage of projects engaged in advancing the combat against cancer,” said Marco Marsella, Head of Unit, eHealth, Well-being, and Ageing in the European Commission’s DG Connect. “But the key question is how to make them work together. We must look not to innovation for the sake of innovation, but focus on how to use that innovation to make healthcare systems better and more efficient”.
In the estimation of Dr. Carmen Laplaza Santos, Head of Unit, Health Innovations & Ecosystems in the European Commission’s DG RTD, “Europe has great strengths that it can deploy in its cooperative culture, its healthcare ecosystem, the degree of patient engagement, and its solid scientific base. All the ingredients are there for the take-up of innovative approaches to tackling cancer.”
Ruggero De Maria, President of Alleanza Contro il Cancro, noted that the conference hosted representatives of 17 countries, and has huge reach through its 45 partners – including hospitals, universities, research organisations, public health institutes, public services, patient organisations and government ministries.
Stefania Boccia, Professor of Hygiene and Public Health at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome, highlighted the – still under-valued – importance of integrating prevention into the combat against cancer. “This requires the involvement of all actors – scientists, policy makers, health professionals, scientific societies and investors”, she said.
For Francesco de Lorenzo, president of the European Cancer Patient Coalition, the recognition of the role of patients and their involvement was central to the process. “We must see how we can become more inclusive in the way we move ahead , both in cancer research and policy”” he said.
Denis Horgan, EAPM Executive Director, and the chair of one of the CAN.HEAL working parties, underlined the need also to bring member states into the process so that they commit their support. “Each partner needs to get ready to contribute to a better future,” he said.
Matthias Schuppe, Project Team Leader for Cancer at the European Commission’s DG Santé, said that the mission “can be achieved if all stakeholders work together”.
Van den Bulcke concluded the two-day meeting with the confident statement that “We are now in a place where together we can begin to create new solutions.”
Notes for editors:
Reducing Disparities Across the European Union – a High-level Stakeholder Conference
Wednesday, April 26th Thursday, April 27th
The project is funded by the European Commission EU4Health Programme 2021-2027 under Grant N° 101080009
For more information, please contact:
Els Van Valckenborgh (project manager): Els.Vanvalckenborgh@sciensano.be
Denis Horgan (WP LEAD): email address email@example.com