The European Society of Radiology (ESR) welcomes yesterday’s publication of the ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’ by the European Commission and applauds the holistic approach, identified areas of action tackling all stages of the disease, the fostering of multi-stakeholder collaboration across all EU countries and the envisaged related EU funding to ensure successful implementation of the ambitious Plan.
The ESR fully supports the Plan’s focus on prevention to reduce cancer incidences through increased action on environmental and lifestyle factors as well as medical interventions.
“A big day for Europe’s cancer community. It is now up to all stakeholders to join forces and to follow words with deeds. The ESR is ready to contribute actively to these ambitious targets and to work in coalition with our patients, other health stakeholders and the EU institutions to improve cancer prevention, early detection and to ensure high-quality cancer care to all patients across the EU,” Prof. Boris Brkljacic, Chairman of the ESR Board of Directors commended the publication of the Plan.
The Plan lays the basis for a coordinated and strengthened approach on early detection and diagnosis. The ESR welcomes the ambition to improve access to existing screening programmes (breast, cervical and colorectal) as well as their quality through the proposed Cancer Screening Scheme and looks forward to contributing to tools and actions to turn this ambition into reality.
Having been at the forefront in alliance with other stakeholders to encourage an update of the 2003 Council Recommendation on Cancer Screening to reflect advances in medical technology and to consider additional cancers for screening programmes (lung, prostate, gastric) based on latest scientific evidence, the ESR is pleased that this element features prominently in the Plan and in particular supports the rollout of national lung cancer screening pilots and related workforce capacity building. It is reassuring to see that support mechanisms for Member States in the implementation process of screening programmes are envisaged to allow monitoring of progress and exchanging of data across borders.
It is key for the Plan to implement an integrated approach to ensure and improve access to medical technologies in the fight against cancer. Member state coordination needs to be strengthened to address questions surrounding access and reimbursement of innovative technologies.
“As a member of the Cancer Mission Board, I am very happy to see that multi-disciplinarity features so prominently in all facets of the Plan, from research to training. I strongly believe that closer collaboration between the medical professions will make us stronger in the fight against cancer and allow to better leverage the potential of AI to achieve the digital transformation of cancer care for our patients”, says Prof. Regina Beets-Tan, ESR 1st Vice President.
Research and innovation are key drivers in the implementation of the Plan. The Mission on Cancer and other funding programmes under Horizon Europe, including the digital programme, but also the EU4Health programme will be essential in supporting novel approaches, including AI-driven solutions to enhance access to treatments and reduce time to diagnosis, as well as infrastructures.
The ESR particularly welcomes the European Cancer Imaging Initiative to develop an EU ‘atlas’ of cancer-related images, making anonymised images accessible to a wide range of stakeholders as a next step following the establishment of the European Health Data Space. It will be important to involve the relevant professional societies in the design of the initiative in order to ensure buy-in from the health professionals, data scientists and patients and to tailor the initiative to the needs of researchers and innovators.
Last, but not least, the ESR is pleased to see radiation safety is addressed in the Plan. “The fact that quality and safety of imaging procedures using ionising radiation is included in the cancer plan with reference to the Euratom research programme and Samira initiative shows that the establishment of the European Alliance for Medical Radiation Protection Research by the professional societies has been an important step to highlight and address the needs for research in this area and, above all, to integrate this field into the broader health research context to ensure utmost patient safety”, Brkljacic states.
The ESR looks forward to contributing to the implementation of the Plan and encourages strong and regular involvement of medial professional societies and other key stakeholders in the EU Cancer Plan Implementation Group or through other mechanisms in order to ensure continuous exchange and alignment.
The Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’ can be accessed here.