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Revising the EU Council Recommendation on cancer screening: an opportunity to step up the fight against lung cancer (Guest blog)

Two years have passed since the introduction of the ambitious Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (EBCP)[1] yet no one could have imagined how cancer care would be disrupted by COVID-19.  Delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment throughout several European countries are a concerning example of such impact. In fact, estimates[2] indicate there are up to one million potentially undiagnosed cancer cases due to the disruption of health systems from the pandemic.
 
Despite these significant setbacks, I am pleased to see that Europe’s commitment to fight cancer remains high on the policy agenda. I could not agree more with the words of the Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides: “This is first and foremost about people. About celebrating and reinforcing resilience and treating cancer as a disease that can and must be overcome”[3].
 
The upcoming revision of the Council Recommendation on cancer screening, a flagship initiative of the EBCP, is an important step in the battle against cancer. If we look at breast cancer, one of the cancers currently included in the recommendation, the benefits provided by systematic screening are clear, resulting in significantly reduced mortality in Europe. In fact, a scientific study[4] concluded that EU breast cancer mortality rates declined by 15% between 2002 and 2012, due to a succession of improvements in the management and treatment of breast cancer, early diagnosis and screening.
 
At Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), we fully support the Council’s intention to extend targeted cancer screening beyond current targets of breast, colorectal and cervical cancer to include additional cancers. Notably, lung cancer is the one of the most common forms of cancer globally, claiming nearly 1.8 million lives in 2020. It is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Europe, responsible for approximately 384,176 deaths in 2020[5]. It is estimated that rolling out a systematic screening program for lung cancer could result in around 12.5 years of additional life and could possibly prevent up to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in Europe every year[6]. This is an opportunity that Europe needs to take.
 
At BMS patients are at the centre of all we do, and driving transformational innovation is in our company’s DNA. That means supporting patients and caregivers with the resources and education they need to better manage and treat cancer. For decades we have pioneered breakthrough medicines and led a revolutionary change in the treatment for a wide range of cancers, including in both advanced lung cancer as well as early stages where there may be the potential to change the course of the devastating disease.
 
BMS shares EFPIA’s firm belief that the implementation of the EBCP is a real opportunity to improve outcomes for patients with lung cancer.
 
We are committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve tangible progress for patients with cancer, keeping the EU at the forefront of this effort. The fight against cancer is a matter of shared responsibility and we at BMS are committed to playing our part. 

[5] World Health Organization- International Agency for Research on Cancer World Fact Sheet. Available at https://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/populations/900-world-fact-sheets.pdf. Accessed May 2020.

Catherine Owen

Senior Vice President - Head of Major Markets (Europe, Canada and Japan) at Bristol-Myers Squibb
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