In 2020, 2.7 million people in the European Union were diagnosed with cancer, and another 1.3 million people lost their lives to the disease. Without reversing current trends, cancer cases are estimated to increase by 24% by 2035, making it the leading cause of death in the EU.
To turn the tide against cancer, the European Commission launched Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan on the eve of World Cancer Day, February 3, 2021. The plan aims to reduce the cancer burden for patients, their families, and health systems by tackling the entire disease pathway.
Four key action areas
The Cancer Plan is structured around four key action areas (with 10 flagship initiatives and multiple supporting actions):
- Prevention through actions addressing key risk factors such as tobacco, harmful alcohol consumption, environmental pollution, and hazardous substances.
- Early detection of cancer by improving access, quality, and diagnostics and support Member States ensuring that 90% of the EU population who qualify for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings are offered screening by 2025.
- Diagnosis and treatment through actions to ensure better integrated and comprehensive cancer care and addressing unequal access to quality care and medicines.
- Improve quality of life of cancer patients and survivors, including rehabilitation, potential tumour recurrence, metastatic disease, and measures to support social integration and re-integration in the workplace. A ‘Better Life for Cancer Patients Initiative’ will be launched, focusing on follow-up care.
Better Life for Cancer Patients Initiative
As part of the Cancer Plan, the Commission will launch the ‘Better Life for Cancer Patients Initiative’, which will focus on follow-up care. The initiative aims to, by 2022, provide a ‘Cancer Survivor Smart-Card’ that can summarise patients’ clinical history and facilitate and monitor follow-up care. This voluntary eCard will be complemented by a virtual ‘European Cancer Patient Digital Centre’ under Horizon Europe to support the exchange of patients’ data and monitoring of survivors’ health conditions.
Ultimately, the Cancer Plan aims to enable expertise and resources to be shared across the EU, supporting countries, regions, and cities with less knowledge and capacity. It will help researchers exchange findings between small and large member states and access crucial health data on the potential causes of cancer and promising treatments for it.
This ambition is entirely in line with EUCANCan’s goal to support and enhance modern oncology by implementing a cultural, technological, and legal integrated framework across Europe and Canada. EUCANCan’s framework will facilitate efficient analysis, management, and sharing of cancer genomic data both within and between the project’s nodes.
The Commission has earmarked a total of €4 billion, including €1.25 billion from the future EU4Health programme, to actions addressing cancer. The Cancer Plan will also receive financial support through the Digital Europe programme and the Horizon Europe, which could provide a total of up to €2 billion to support the Mission of Cancer and other cancer-related research projects.
Horizon Europe is the EU’s new Research and Innovation Framework Programme, which succeeded the previous framework, Horizon 2020, on January 1, 2021. One novelty of Horizon Europe is the framework’s focus on five mission areas, cancer being one of them.
Horizon Europe’s mission areas are:
- Adaptation to climate change, including societal transformation
- Climate-neutral and smart cities
- Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
- Soil health and food
EUCANCan receives funding through Horizon 2020 on the European side and the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) on the Canadian side.
Open end-date for Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan does not have a set end-date, but the plan will be reviewed for the first time at the end of 2024. The review will assess whether the actions taken are sufficient to achieve the objectives, or whether additional measures are necessary.