European Cancer Organisation

July 2011


Eighth letter to our Community / 28 July 2011



In the run-up to the European Multidisciplinary Congress in Stockholm, I have been thinking about how we use it as a platform to promote multidisciplinarity as one of the best means to ensure that each cancer patient receives the best.

As a Federation, ECCO strives to connect the European cancer community by leveraging knowledge, promoting education and building awareness. We also play an important role in engaging with policymakers to promote the interests of cancer patients, other members of the oncocommunity, cancer research, etc.

While our biennial Congress is an important milestone for us towards achieving that, ECCO’s efforts to promote multidisciplinary collaboration are continuous, and go far beyond the realm of our preeminent Congress. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a couple of examples of how such collaboration helps make achieving better end-results a reality. We should be proud of such outcomes - they demonstrate the wider effectiveness of ECCO itself as a platform for drawing together the different disciplines, professions and stakeholders within oncology on an equal footing. ECCO acts as an axis for creating concrete opportunities to better serve cancer patients - something we can also be proud to be a part of.


New European Commission draft legislation clarifies Use of MRI in the EU

ECCO is a member of the Alliance for MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), which was created in 2007 as a response to the threat posed by European Commission Directive 2004/40/EC on “the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields)”. Significant restrictions, detrimental to our patients on the use of MRI were expected based on these legislative proposals, despite the well-known fact that MRI is free from most health risks associated with ionising radiation such as x-rays. The Alliance, supported by numerous MEPs, European and national patient groups and scientific organisations including ESTRO and ECCO has been campaigning to have the negative impact on clinical and research use of MRI recognised and rectified. Such united efforts from diverse members of the community, including ECCO and ESTRO members have the goal of helping the whole community. To me, this is a superb showcase of how a multidisciplinary organisation can effectively unite different fields that are important for oncology to produce and provide sound scientific input and influence policy development.

And it works! The recent revision of the Directive on electromagnetic fields exempting MRI technology from its exposure limit values tells us so. ECCO and the Alliance warmly welcome this updated Directive which aims to correct the unforeseen negative impact on MRI. Even though use of MRI technology will now be exempt from the exposure limits, it is important to note that all workers using MRI will be protected through existing regulations which ensure its safe use.

ECCO intends to actively engage with the Alliance to ensure that this derogation of the Directive will be positively brought forward by the forthcoming EU Presidency holders, Poland and early agreement on the legislation will be agreed by the European Parliament and Council. The Alliance for MRI is supported by numerous MEPs, European and national patient groups and scientific organisations including ESTRO, the European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.


European diabetes and cancer experts collaborate in challenging complex questions

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a common chronic disorder with prevalence increasing over the last three decades and now ranging from 5% to 15% across European countries. Cancer literature has long recognised that T2DM is associated with an increased incident risk of several cancer types, independent of the common risk factor, obesity. However, in June 2009, four papers appeared simultaneously in Diabetologia, the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), raising questions of a link between diabetes treatments, notably the long-acting insulin analogue, glargine, and increased cancer risk. These papers stimulated an unprecedented debate in the diabetes community; drawing in cancer experts and leading to the coming together of representatives from these two large, traditionally non-intersecting, biomedical communities. Both ECCO and the President of EASD have subsequently developed a unique mutual appreciation of the diabetes-cancer issues and have spearheaded efforts to address these complex questions, demonstrating the importance of a flexible multidisciplinary approach in taking advantage of all opportunities to collaborate to the wider benefit of patients.

In December 2009, a dedicated workshop was held under the joint auspices of the American Diabetes Association and American Cancer Society with representations from ECCO and EASD, from which a consensus document was published in summer 2010. In Europe, the EASD firmly grasped the debate and appointed a Task Force including representation from ECCO. The following are only some of the key challenges for this group:

  • A perception that basic scientists in cancer and diabetes research are not working effectively together;
  • An ongoing need to educate oncology and diabetes clinical communities of the associations between diabetes, diabetes treatment and cancer; and
  • A lack of mechanisms to translate research into clinical guidance.

The Task Force is, in turn, intrinsically linked with the Diabetes and Cancer Research Consortium (DCRC), an international consortium of investigators undertaking pharmaco-epidemiological studies. Formed in June 2010, it aims to optimise methodologies addressing the diabetes-cancer questions and to (meta)-analyse data derived from different databases where possible. The third invitation-only DCRC workshop will be held in Brussels in 2012, with combined ECCO and EASD support. Joint symposia on diabetes and cancer are also scheduled for the EASD annual conference in September 2011 and at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm in September 2011, together with the European Association for the Study of Obesity.


Late-Breaking Abstracts

Late-breaking abstracts describe the latest advances that will change our daily clinical practice. We are all aware of the significance of such ground-breaking and unique data in highlighting and subsequently encouraging continued research in Europe. That is why I want late-breaking abstracts to form the heart of the four Presidential Sessions as well as proffered paper sessions at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress on 23 to 27 September in Stockholm this year.

The number of oral presentation slots has also been increased to provide a leading showcase for the latest developments in practice-changing studies of new and significant scientific importance.

Of course, it is clear that late-breaking abstracts should highlight novel and practice-changing studies. Submission opens on 27 July and closes on 10 August and will undergo a rigorous selection process. The accepted data will consequently be disseminated to a highly anticipated record number of participants and peers during the Congress, as well as the wider public through the 500 or so journalists also expected to attend.

Such abstracts are highly important contributions that cannot wait to be presented at the next cancer congress. They enable us to gain insight into the latest accomplishments and undertakings whilst celebrating our peers and colleagues at the forefront of this work. That is why I urge you to submit your data and to actively contribute to the success of our Congress by helping develop the strongest and most stimulating programme to date. It will help you to not only gain well-deserved recognition for your work, but to also support the advancement and acceleration of cancer therapy and care worldwide.

Michael Baumann, ECCO President


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