Making Hope Reality: Action on Treatment and Care for Metastatic Cancer Patients

15 December 2021

The European Cancer Organisation (ECO) has published a Report: “Making Hope Reality: Action on Treatment and Care for Metastatic Cancer Patients”. The report provides a detailed account of the presentations and contributions shared during a special Community 365 Roundtable Meeting on Metastatic Cancer held in October 2021.

This meeting brought together leading policy-makers, politicians, oncology experts and patient advocates to discuss the implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and Cancer Mission, as well as other EU policy developments relating to metastatic cancer. There was a specific focus on the policy challenges in respect to metastatic breast, prostate and lung cancer, as well as on the potential of biomarkers and testing in the metastatic cancer field. New survey results on the unmet needs of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with brain metastases were also presented.

Metastatic cancer corresponds to an advanced stage of the disease, in which cancer spreads from the part of the body where it started to create secondary tumours (or metastases) in other parts of the body. Metastases impact extensively on cancer patients by creating additional symptoms and decreasing their chances of survival.

ECO’s Roundtable has, however, highlighted progress achieved in recent years, so that metastatic cancer is no longer necessarily seen as a death sentence. Instead, the many needs and opportunities to improve outcomes in metastatic cancer were emphasised at the European Cancer Summit 2021. From new technologies to treatment strategies, ECO believes that achieving a better prognosis and overall quality of life for these patients is possible. To make this a reality, an in-depth understanding of the main implementation barriers must be part of the approach.

Matti Aapro, President of the European Cancer Organisation, said:

“I have been delighted to co-chair this very important Roundtable in the crucial period of the implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the EU Cancer Mission. This Action Report comes at the relevant time to powerfully convey the clear consensus from the cancer community: there is hope in metastatic cancer and urgent need for better support for affected patients. At the European Cancer Organisation, we call for all decision-makers within and beyond EU institutions to give utmost attention to the outlined recommendations so that metastatic cancer patients are not forgotten when driving progress in cancer control and care across Europe.”

In an effort to influence key EU health initiatives and the current policy environment, the newly-released report outlines recommendations for united action to improve treatment, care and quality of life for metastatic cancer patients:

  1. Patients with metastatic cancer have particular unmet needs in respect to treatment, care and symptom management. This should be reflected in specific policy to better address these needs.

  2. Patient organisations should be supported within health systems to address the particular information and care needs of patients with metastatic cancer.

  3. A cultural change is required within political and health systems in respect of metastatic cancer. Hope is under-emphasised, yet treatment and care innovations often provide reason for it.

  4. Improvements in genetic testing of cancer can help in the provision of better treatments, including in respect of patients with metastatic cancer.

  5. Too many cancer patients in Europe do not benefit from biomarker testing. This is a significant source of cancer inequality which should be encompassed within the EU agenda on cancer inequalities.

  6. Patient awareness and understanding about biomarker testing should also be improved. There is an important role in this respect for patient organisations, which should be supported by healthcare systems.

  7. Clinical trials are not sufficiently including cancer patients with metastases. This imbalance should be addressed, including via more realistic trial inclusion and exclusion criteria.

  8. Our oncology data approaches in Europe are deficient when it comes to metastatic cancer. A prime example relates to registries, which are not adequately recording metastatic cancer and cancer recurrence. In the context of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the EU Mission on Cancer and the establishment of the European Health Data Space, this deficiency should be addressed. The European Cancer Organisation’s Digital Health Network has recommended political targets on registry interoperability as one means to support this.

Kathy Oliver, Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Patient Advisory Committee, said:

“As patient and caregiver advocates, we are painfully aware of the devastating impacts of metastatic cancer on those affected and their families. All patients deserve opportunities for optimal care at whatever stage of their disease. We are beginning to see that metastatic cancer patients have the promise of better outcomes in diseases which, in the past, were considered very dire indeed. There is real hope in the healthcare community for these patients now, so this hope should also be reflected in cancer policies.”

Read the full report here.