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Reflection on Europe's Cancer Mission Board

Reflection on Europe's Cancer Mission Board

Now the Cancer Mission Board of the European Commission has published an interim report and revealed its objectives, the Anticancer Fund, together with the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL) (*), expresses some concerns: the interim report comprehensively covers key aspects of cancer prevention and care, but does it pay enough attention to patients' needs? And will it result in a larger return on public investment?

In order to deliver a Cancer Mission driven by public health and patients’ needs and by the ultimate objective of bringing maximum value for public investment to European patients and citizens at large, the two organisations listed up their recommendations. They suggest:

More independent clinical research

I. To reformulate the ‘Recommendation 5': Advance and implement personalised medicine approaches for all cancer patients in Europe.

Rather than focusing on ‘implementation’ of precision medicine and accompanying diagnostics where there is sufficient commercial funding and high uncertainty connected to added value of such treatments to patients in terms of prolonging survival and quality of life (1) (2) (3), the Mission should support independent clinical research that ultimately demonstrates the added therapeutic value for patients (overall survival and quality of life) and incentivise novel clinical trial designs and research on treatments that are neglected by pharmaceutical industry such as:

✓ Treatment optimisation research to identify the optimal dosage and duration of existing treatments, both for the benefit of patients and to guarantee the sustainability of healthcare systems;
✓ Drug repurposing research to find new applications of well-established, effective and widely available generic medicines.
✓ Multimodality combination treatments.

Less fragmented data sources

II. To ensure ‘Recommendation 8': Create a European Cancer Patient Digital Centre where cancer patients and survivors can deposit and share their data for personalised care, calls for:

The reduction of fragmentation of oncology data sources and striving to achieve a well functioning European Health Data Space with focus on integration of real world data sources and harnessing quality-of-life data, while securing principles of data safety, open science and FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable).

The Anticancer Fund and the Association of European Cancer Leagues agree with the aim to advance the methodology of outcomes-based programmes where patient- and society-relevant outcomes are not limited to response rates, but also include quality of life aspects. Nevertheless, with the current level of evidence we do not agree with its ‘uptake’, ‘scaling’ and ‘implementation’ which are so prominently mentioned in the interim report.

We sincerely believe that integration of the above stated objectives in the report will contribute to the development of a Cancer Mission which strives to bring benefit to patients and European society at large.


To read more about the Cancer Mission Board of Horizon Europe and the recommendations the Anticancer Fund formulated in December 2019, please click here.

To discover how the Anticancer Fund connects with decision makers to contribute to the development of policy frameworks and regulations, have a look here.


(*) The Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL) is a non-profit, pan-European umbrella organisation of national and regional cancer societies. ECL provides an exclusive platform for members to collaborate with their international peers, primarily in the areas of cancer prevention, tobacco control, access to medicines and patient support, and creates opportunities to advocate for these issues at the EU level.

(1) Tannock, I. F. and Hickman J. A., ‘Limits to Personalized Cancer Medicine’, The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 375(13), 2016 – underlined that ‘ There should also be a clear message to patients that personalized cancer medicine has not led to gains in survival or its quality and is an appropriate strategy only within well designed clinical trials.’
(2) Prasad, V. et al., ‘Precision oncology: origins, optimism, and potential’, Lancet Oncology, vol. 17, 2016.
(3) Davis, C. et al., ‘Availability of evidence of benefits on overall survival and quality of life of cancer drugs approved by European Medicines Agency: retrospective cohort study of drug approvals 2009-13’. The BMJ, vol. 356, 2017.