Catching All Cancers Earlier: A Critical Principle for New EU Recommendations

17 November 2021

This morning, the European Cancer Organisation has published a fresh stakeholder consensus statement that expresses advice to the EU on how to ensure new recommendations to Member States on detecting cancer early, due to be published in 2022, can have the strongest impact.

In ‘Earlier is Better: Advancing Cancer Screening and Early Detectionthe European Cancer Organisation, working with its dedicated Network on Prevention, Early Detection and Screening, has set out a number of pressing needs to be encapsulated in the new formal advice on cancer screening that the European Commission and Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) are presently engaged in formulating.

Key asks expressed in the Statement include:

  • Developing Council Recommendations that cover advice to Member States on both Cancer Screening and Early Detection
  • In respect to cancer screening, the new Council Recommendations should:
    • Take note of, and reflect, scientific and practice developments in cancer screening, including the greater deployment of risk-based approaches
    • Include ambitious goals and advice to Member States on improved screening and early detection strategies for further tumour types, including lung, prostate and other cancers
    • Incorporate a strong implementation framework, through a new EU platform of screening agencies to accelerate best-practice sharing, and better monitoring and information at European, national and regional level on early detection performance
  • In respect to early detection of cancer overall, the new Council Recommendations should advise Member States, and include initiative on:
    • Increasing population awareness of potential warning signs of cancer
    • Enhancing the role of primary care in the improvement of cancer early detection
    • Addressing needs of the healthcare workforce involved in the cancer diagnosis pathway
    • Leveraging the advancement of new technologies that can drive improvement in cancer early detection across tumour types, including Next-Generation Sequencing, AI and liquid biopsies

Commenting on the new paper, Isabel Rubio, Co-Chair of the E.C.O. Prevention, Early Detection and Screening Network said:

“2022 is a big moment for the EU on the early detection component of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. What we are calling for in today’s paper is this. We need an EU policy agenda on early detection of cancer that bolsters what we have already achieved together on cancer screening, but that also updates itself fully for the new realities in screening practices, and embraces the common early detection needs for all cancers. Next year’s EU Council Recommendations are a chance for a full refresh. Let’s make those recommendations a driver for a fuller, stronger and wider drive on early detection of cancer.”

Jan van Meerbeeck, Co-Chair of the E.C.O. Prevention, Early Detection and Screening Network said:

“At the European Cancer Summit this week, we will be showcasing just how much has moved on since the last EU recommendations on cancer screening in 2003. We have brand new technologies changing and improving how we do breast, cervical and colorectal cancer. New screening and early detection programmes for other cancers have emerged as well. Lung cancer screening, as an example, is allowing risk stratified approaches to target detection activities for one of the most common cancers we have in Europe. Early detection makes all the difference in lung cancer. It is critical that the 2022 Council Recommendations provides support to earlier detection of lung and other cancers.”