This year has been a difficult one for all citizens and affected enormously the whole of the healthcare spectrum, with cancer care in all countries of Europe and the world experiencing enormous upheaval and challenge. Yet, 2020 has also offered a chance to reflect anew on the delivery of care and the opportunities for redesign and innovation.
The European Cancer Organisation is no exception to that. In June 2020, we established a Special Network on the Impact of COVID-19 on cancer care, which has developed a seven-point plan to address the impact of the pandemic and how to rebuild cancer services.
Our work has also continued elsewhere to realise our mission of reducing the burden of cancer and improving outcomes and the quality of care for cancer patients, through multidisciplinarity and multiprofessionalism. This includes timely action reports on a four-step plan for eliminating HPV cancers in Europe, beating inequalities in cancer care, and achieving quality of life for all cancer patients and survivors, among others.
In September, we published the European Code of Cancer Practice, a new tool for empowering citizens and cancer patients with ten key overarching rights, signposting what cancer patients should expect from their health system. The work on ensuring that they are implemented across Europe, for all patients, is already underway.
Now, as ever, patient advocates are at the heart of the European Cancer Organisation. Twenty patient advocacy groups are involved in our policy-making and initiatives, and help steer our activities to ensure their voice is heard as we reach for the goal of truly personalised medicine, guided by patient needs.
This year’s European Cancer Summit, held virtually on 18 & 19 November 2020, was an opportunity to bring together all that valuable work and examine how to take it forward, under the motto 'Working Together Against Cancer: Breaking Down Barriers and Saving Lives'.
As well as a session on the impact of COVID-19 on cancer, we discussed health systems and treatment optimisation, implementation of quality cancer care, disparities and inequalities in cancer care, achieving earlier detection of cancer, cancer survivorship, the development of a resilient oncology workforce, the elimination of HPV-related cancers in Europe, and the digital transformation of cancer care.
This year has also been an important one for cancer policy at the European Union (EU) level. While the COVID-19 pandemic diverted attention and resources away from key areas such as cancer prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, it highlighted how a truly European approach is needed to level-up care more than ever.
The EU will soon launch Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and initiatives related to the EU Cancer Mission, and we were able to bring together key figures from both of those important developments, including the relevant EU Commissioners, to discuss their implementation. The Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights also joined us to highlight their work on strengthening the oncology workforce.
Finally, we dedicated a session to examining cancer issues worldwide, with relevant contributions that widened our focus out from Europe and demonstrated how the link between social disadvantage and poorer cancer outcomes is universal.
All of this exciting work, highlighting the efforts of patient organisations, clinicians, researchers, EU Commissioners, MEPs, National Governments, the World Health Organization, Union for International Cancer Control, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and other leading bodies is summarised in this European Cancer Summit 2020 Report, alongside eight high-level Resolutions on key areas of cancer policy that were voted on during the sessions.
What the Summit, and this report, highlights is the importance of cooperation, not only nationally and internationally, but also between disciplines to make the advances necessary to drive innovation and improve cancer care in cooperation with patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced health and healthcare to the top of the EU agenda, and the time is now to ensure cancer is at the heart of efforts with equity of care for all. We must seize the day and leave no one behind in our mission.