Bladder cancer: the Cinderella of cancers

To mark #BladderCancerMonth22, Alan McDougall, Senior Vice President and Head of Medical Affairs, Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd, says prioritising bladder cancer in EU health policy and research frameworks can help reduce disease burden and support progress for patients. 

Bladder cancer is one of the top 5 most common cancers in Europe, claiming more than 67,000 lives every year.1,2

It is often described as the Cinderella of cancers because it’s left down in a cellar and nobody goes to look for it. Yet, despite having one of the highest lifetime costs of any cancer,3 the level of policy and research commitment is disproportionately small compared with the significance of the disease and the impact it has on patients, health systems and economies.

In addition, limited treatment options have been available to bladder cancer patients, particularly those with advanced forms of the disease who have five-year survival rates of just 5%.4,5

This means that productivity losses due to mortality and morbidity for bladder cancer patients in Europe amount to €769 million and €329 million respectively, adding further to the negative impact on patients and the wider economy.6
The implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan should play a huge role in improving outcomes and quality of life for all people living with cancer, particularly those living with neglected cancer types such as bladder. With 4 billion euros earmarked for implementation – and a focus on cancers where there are unmet needs7 – these European policy and research initiatives will be critical in areas such as disease awareness, screening and health data collection, where progress, could make a real difference for patients.

European and national pathways should allow patients to have equitable access to diagnosis, treatment and care for bladder cancer. Adherence to the latest clinical guidelines and being able to access the right treatment and services at the right time has never been more important.
Looking ahead, there’s lots to be optimistic about, but there’s still more investment and collective engagement required to raise the profile of bladder cancer – with patient experience at the heart of these efforts.
This interview with Alan McDougall was first published in POLITICO. Click here to read in full.
Please note that the links below will take you to third-party websites
1 World Health Organization (2020), International Agency for Research on Cancer, Estimated number of new cases in 2020, all cancers, both sexes, all ages, available at: Last accessed: May 2022
2 International Agency for Research on Cancer. Bladder cancer incidence in Europe in people over 70. Last accessed: May 2022
3 Richters A et al (2020), World Journal of Urology, The global burden of urinary bladder cancer: an update. available at: World J Urol, 38:1895–1904. doi: 10.1007/s00345-019-02984-4. Last accessed: May 2022
4 European Cancer Patient Coalition (2016), White Paper Bladder Cancer, available at: Last accessed: May 2022
5 American Cancer Society (2022), American Cancer Society, Survival Rates for Bladder Cancer, available at: ACS, Last accessed: May 2022
6 Leal, J et al (2016), European Academy of Urology, Economic Burden of Bladder Cancer Across the European Union, available at: EurUrol, 69: 448-449, 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2015.10.024. Last accessed: May 2022
7 European Parliamentary Research Service (2021), European Parliament, Europe's Beating Cancer plan: quick overview and initial reactions, available at: Last accessed: May 2022

OBC_2022_0034_ABC. May 2022




Alan McDougall

Alan McDougall is Senior Vice President and Head of Medical Affairs, Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd
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