European Cancer Summit 2021 Report: From Plans to Action

16 December 2021


2021 has exposed the weaknesses and lack of resilience of European healthcare systems with major consequences for cancer care and cancer patients, regrettably not too different from 2020. More than ever, this past year has stressed the need for crucial attention not only to restore cancer services but to build back better and be prepared to face upcoming challenges.

Despite the tough two years that our European cancer community has faced, there have been some very positive developments during this time which demonstrate that even out of darkness, there can be light. In February 2021, the European Commission published Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, acknowledging the need for a renewed and enhanced commitment to cancer prevention, treatment and care that recognises the growing challenges, and opportunities to overcome them. Reflecting a political commitment to leave no one behind, the Cancer Plan contains concrete and ambitious actions that will support, coordinate and complement Member States’ efforts in fighting cancer. The Cancer Plan, which works hand in hand with the EU Cancer Mission, will hopefully bring concrete solutions and funding potential. These possibilities have been enthusiastically welcomed by the cancer community.

This year’s European Cancer Summit, held in a hybrid format on 17 & 18 November 2021, was an opportunity to bring together the valuable work conducted by the European Cancer Organisation’s Focused Topics Networks which are built on the importance of patient advocacy, multi-professionalism and collaboration across all stakeholders. With the facilitation and support of the Focused Topics Networks, the Summit examined in detail how to support the implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan in the coming years, under the motto “From Plans to Action”. Indeed, this Summit came at an important time. Six months on from the publication of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, it was a good opportunity to look at the Cancer Plan’s progress and bring the cancer community together to offer its advice for the next stages of the implementation journey. On 17 November, Health Commissioner Kyriakides announced that on that same day the implementation roadmap had been made public. We believe that there is great promise in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the recommendations made by the EU Cancer Mission. The challenge now is to turn the plans into reality to ensure that we maximise their value for cancer patients and citizens.

We hope that the work of the EU Commission will mark the beginning of a new era in cancer prevention and care, and patient access to high quality screening and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. We also hope that these goals will be supported by concrete, multi-stakeholder actions.

The 12 sessions of the European Cancer Summit gave focus and recommendations on how the almost 40 different EU initiatives being taken forward as part of the Plan can achieve the greatest impact. We highlight the positive contributions from the European Cancer Organisation’s Member Societies, Patient Advisory Committee, Community 365 and many others across and beyond Europe in making this year’s Summit such a success.

With 100 distinguished speakers and more than 500 delegates at the Summit, we discussed the impact of Covid-19 on cancer, health systems and treatment optimisation, digital transformation of cancer care, quality cancer care, disparities and inequalities in cancer care, earlier detection of cancer, cancer survivorship, resilient oncology workforce, and the elimination of HPV-related cancers in Europe. Finally, with a session dedicated to cancer issues worldwide, we had the chance to widen our focus and welcomed international contributions and advice.

This year’s Summit has seen the publication of two consensus policy statements, including ‘Earlier is Better: Advancing Cancer Screening and Early Detection’ and ‘Unlocking the Potential of Digitalisation in Cancer Care – No Stopping Us Now!’. These are consensus recommendations on how to leverage the current political momentum to harness the full potential of cancer control and care to improve patients’ and citizens’ lives.

Two additional impactful projects were also presented to the Summit audience: The ‘Time to Act Data Navigator’ as well as ‘HPV Testimonies’. We are very grateful for the work of all within our community to develop and deliver these initiatives. 

2021 will be remembered for more than Covid-19. Stakeholders at the European Cancer Summit expressed optimism for the future. Over 60 organisations have endorsed the European Cancer Summit 2021 Declaration, encapsulating the headlines of overall advice from the cancer community for a brighter future for healthcare and cancer care across Europe.

With implementation activity across already underway, the Declaration calls for:

  • Taking forward an EU agenda supporting earlier detection of cancer across all tumour types by developing Council Recommendations on Cancer Screening and Early Detection.
  • Accelerating the adoption of digital technology’s promise for cancer care by addressing complaints of barriers created by the GDPR regulation, setting firm targets on EU data interoperability and taking actions to boost the digital literacy of the public and healthcare professionals
  • Addressing sustained shortages in the oncology workforce. This should include the provision of workforce mapping within new EU level post pandemic health emergency planning structures.
  • Providing greater commitment to combatting inequalities in cancer care across Europe related to social determinants such as age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and social marginalisation.

This year’s Summit and Declaration highlight the importance of cooperation at the international level and between disciplines and stakeholders to ultimately improve outcomes for cancer patients and their families.

As President of the European Cancer Organisation and Co-Chairs of this year’s European Cancer Summit, we are very optimistic that Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the Cancer Mission will be excellent tools to drive the necessary advances and improvement in cancer care. 

Cancer patients cannot wait. So, the European cancer community stands right behind the European Commission in the implementation journey ahead. The time is now.

Matti Aapro
President, European Cancer Organisation

Theresa Wiseman
Programme Co-Chair, European Cancer Summit 2021

Kathy Oliver
Programme Co-Chair, European Cancer Summit 2021