A European Cancer Plan – For better, more equal access to cancer care (Guest blog)

Kathi Apostolidis

Kathi is ECPC Past President and Chair of Scientific Committee after having served  for ten years as Vice President...
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Mike Morrissey

Mike Morrissey is Chief Executive for the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO).Mike Morrissey recently joined the...
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Alexander Roediger

Alexander Roediger is Associate Vice President, Global Lead Oncology Policy at MSD. Alexander Roediger (1968),...
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In a joint effort, ECCO, ECPC and EFPIA have recently put the European Cancer Plan on the agenda of a session of the European Health Forum Gastein. Cancer is set to become disease burden #1 (according to recent research by the Institute for Health Economics). Every year there are 3.1 million new people who are diagnosed with cancer. And cancer leads to 1.4 million deaths per year.
(Panel discussion: "A European Cancer Plan: Make it Disruptive!“ session organised by ECPC, ECCO and EFPIA at the European Health Forum Gastein 2019)

(Panel discussion: "A European Cancer Plan: Make it Disruptive!“ session organised by ECPC, ECCO and EFPIA at the European Health Forum Gastein 2019)

Why a Cancer Control Plan?
Controlling cancer in Europe will require the investment of substantial resources at national level and the effective coordination of policies (see A Cancer Plan is a public health programme designed to reduce the number of cancer cases and deaths and improve quality of life of cancer patients. It is designed with the aim of making the best use of available resources. A systematic approach to cancer can offer a more efficient way of tackling it.

Why a European Cancer Plan?
Nearly all Member States have developed a National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP), following the Council Conclusions of 2008. A European plan should, on the one hand, ensure equal opportunities. Healthcare is organised at national level, and National Cancer Control Plans do their job, at least, they are in place, and this mission is nearly accomplished. On the other hand, however not every cancer patient in Europe gets the same level of cancer care. 5-year survival or mortality vary widely. And access to innovation is unequal. Every European citizen should have the same opportunities – whether they live in Sofia or in Munich or in Madrid.
Besides showing the road to follow, a European cancer control plan should materially provide for and foster implementation at national level. A simple, single European plan which measures progress, enhances what is already existing, shaped by multiple stakeholders, and sets European targets which can disrupt the current system and improve outcomes for all European cancer patients, is what European cancer patients aim to.

What should a European Cancer Plan achieve?
A European Cancer Plan should have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). We asked our audience in Gastein to tell us their views and their feedback clustered around three main themes: clinical measurements, financial measurements, and most importantly patient feed-back (measurements that make sense to patients).

Clinical measurements:
  • Incidence, mortality, 5-year survival rates, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) gained
Financial measurements:
  • Public expenditure and investment in oncology, efficiency of screening/diagnosis, new technology in different stages of diagnostics, treatment & care, cost-effectiveness of public expenditure, percentage of access to innovative oncology treatments
Patient measurements:
  • Time from diagnostic to treatment, return to work (number of people with cancer in active work), improved capacity of reintegration of the patient in society
Developing and agreeing on such indicators will help that every citizen and cancer patient benefits in the same way from cancer control and care across Europe.

 How should a European Cancer Plan achieve its goals?
This sounds like a million-dollar question. Our intermediate response has been: collaboration. ECPC, ECCO and EFPIA have joined forces to launch this discussion, knowing there are neither simple solutions nor quick wins. But agreeing on the need and working together towards a solution for the benefit of the many cancer patients is already a first step. At Gastein we have invited a broader range of stakeholders, including academia, the European Commission, Patient Advocacy Groups, cancer scientific societies, research institutes, cancer centres, governments – and the audience. We invite you all to join us, we would like to hear from you how we can join forces for the benefit of European cancer patients. In order to continue this journey, we invite you to join us.


Every single day, in Europe, a growing number of patients hear bad news from their oncologists. However, unfortunately, people diagnosed with cancer may face different outcomes depending on where they live.