3rd President’s Page of Cornelis van de Velde, June 2012
Cancer is predominantly a disease of older people, so ageing populations, as well as unhealthy lifestyle choices, mean that the number of cases is likely to increase significantly in the years ahead. A major aim of ECCO is to help all stakeholders grasp and respond to the immense challenges posed by cancer in Europe, and to seize opportunities by enhancing knowledge about scientific and clinical advances in the field. This also includes the policy environment underpinning Europe’s fight against the disease.
This drive underpins ECCO’s Oncopolicy Forum, an annual platform bringing policymakers straight to the heart of discussions about our community’s well-founded concerns regarding policy. As an annual meeting, it either takes place in Brussels or during the biennial European Cancer Congress organised by ECCO in alternate years.
The Oncopolicy Forum harnesses the expertise and experience of the entire oncology community to bridge the gap between science and policy. It maximises the potential for achieving real change through consensus. At the last multidisciplinary European Cancer Congress in 2011, the Forum’s emphasis was placed on developing action-oriented solutions to health inequalities in oncology.
This year’s high-level policy Forum takes place in Brussels on 11 October and will focus on personalised cancer medicine. Personalised medicine is a key area that is revolutionising the way cancer is fought. It poses some particularly interesting challenges, not only for patients and professionals, but also for policymakers. Tailored approaches have the potential to help change the landscape of oncology, with huge implications for all disciplines involved. The multidisciplinary and multi-professional approach advocated by ECCO and its 24 member societies are helping advance tailored cancer therapy and care.
Personalised medicine is expected to become integral to everyday clinical practice within the next five to ten years, and will continuously evolve as new disciplines are added to the process. This year’s Oncopolicy Forum aims to raise awareness and promote solutions by tackling key questions, such as: How can public policy support the development of patient-centred approaches within this innovative field? What are the legal and regulatory challenges? How are personalised approaches to cancer revolutionising research, treatment and care?
The Forum underpins the oncocommunity’s common goal to achieve the best cancer treatment and care for patients by facilitating continuous interaction with EU and national decision-makers. It is recognised as a key platform for inspiring cancer policy debate at EU level and provides the unifying voice of all European societies representing oncology professionals.
I look forward to contributing to the Forum in October, and will keep you up-to-date on our engagement with policymakers and on our mission to drive forward oncopolicy in Europe for the benefit of patients.
Continuing progress towards securing the future of research in Europe
As outlined in previous president’s pages, the Alliance for Biomedical Research in Europe (BioMed Alliance) involves 21 leading research-oriented medical societies and represents more than 250,000 researchers across Europe. The Alliance has called for a bottom-up, scientific-led solution to improve the coordination of health research innovation through the creation of a European Council for Health Research (EuCHR). This is occurring at a time when Horizon 2020, the EU’s next Framework Programme for research and innovation, is being finalised.
As a founding member of this Alliance, ECCO attended the jointly organised conference between the Biomed Alliance and the European Commission on 23 May this year. More than 100 top experts participated, including policymakers, representatives from national research councils, patient and public health organisations, and other biomedical research stakeholders. This landmark meeting gathered stakeholders’ views on how health research and innovation can be more effectively and strategically coordinated in the European Union. The high-level meeting took place in the run up to the launch of the EU’s next Framework Programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020, which will be running from 2014 to 2020.
At the European Parliament level, MEPs Maria da Graça Carvalho and Teresa Riera Madurell are providing key support for the EuCHR initiative by including a ‘Sectoral Steering Board for Health’ in their proposed report on Horizon 2020. This is extremely encouraging for the Alliance and all members of the oncocommunity who are determined to address current fragmentation, increase innovation and ensure that the top research results taking place in Europe reach its citizens by providing scientific expertise from the outset. It is crucial that these amendments are agreed by all Members of the European Parliament. ECCO and the Alliance are calling for all its members to engage with decision-makers at both EU and national level, to confirm and reinforce the need for such an initiative.
This is an important step: by promoting the initiative at both national and European level together with other major research disciplines, we can ensure the scientific community has a say on the future of all research in Europe, thereby contributing to creating a healthier Europe for our citizens.
Cornelis van de Velde
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