Health Systems and Treatment Optimisation Network

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Why a Network on Health Systems and Treatment Optimisation?

In recent decades cancer care has seen improvements in:

  • the speed and accuracy of diagnostic procedures;
  • the effectiveness of surgery, radiation therapy, and medical treatments;
  • the power of information technology; and
  • the development of multidisciplinary, specialist-led approaches to care.

Such innovations are essential if we are to continue improving the lives of cancer patients across Europe despite financial pressures on our healthcare systems.

To help health systems meet the decision-making challenges related to these new treatment options, members of the European Cancer Organisation have initiated many actions to assist.  These include the EORTC Treatment Optimisation manifesto and projects orientated towards bringing about more value-based approaches in respect to innovation uptake. See “Related Resources” on the right-hand side of this page for further information.

An Action Plan for Health Systems and Treatment Optimisation: Addressing Gaps in the Cancer Research Continuum

The European Cancer Organisation's Focused Topic Network on Health Systems and Treatment Optimisation started its work in April 2020. Working with over 45 European Cancer Organisation Member Societies, Patient Advisory Committee and Community 365 participating in the Network, as well as with invited experts, the Network elaborated an Action Plan for its early work.

The guiding mission of the Health Systems and Treatment Optimisation Network is to bring about a reorientation of health systems and research approaches in cancer in order to achieve the twin aims of:

  • treatment optimisation (i.e. optimising cancer treatment for the benefit of the patient); and
  • health systems optimisation (i.e. optimising cancer care delivery for the benefit of the healthcare system).

At the core of the Network’s Plan to achieve these aims is the conduct of independent research on multidisciplinary cancer treatment, following a reverse engineering approach to address gaps in the cancer research continuum and prioritise questions relevant and meaningful for patients and public health.

Awareness and agreement around this Action Plan has been further reinforced through early exchanges with the European Commission, as well as a dedicated Network’s resolution reemphasising its key principles, passed at the European Cancer Summit 2020.

Affordable and Equitable Access to Multidisciplinary Treatments: Vision or Illusion?

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Panel discussion at the European Cancer Summit 2021 session "Affordable and Equitable Access to Multidisciplinary Treatments: Vision or Illusion?".

The European Cancer Summit 2021 featured a special session dedicated to discussion on the Health Systems and Treatment Optimisation Network, titled: "Affordable and Equitable Access to Multidisciplinary Treatments: Vision or Illusion?". The session was co-chaired by Denis Lacombe and Yolande Lievens and allowed for a high-level exchange on key developments and requirements to advance the Network’s goals, including European Medicines Agency (EMA) Executive Director Emer Cooke and other leading experts from academia, cancer policy, epidemiology, patient advocacy, civil society and other stakeholders.

The Network also formulated and agreed a specific section of the European Cancer Summit 2021 Declaration outlining the key importance of defining and addressing patient-centric public health needs in cancer treatment, research and policy:

“To support Europe’s fight against cancer, an EU-led process should be established to define and address the important patient-centric public health needs. Such a process requires robust and independent scientific evidence in order to guarantee access to optimized multidisciplinary treatments in sustainable health care systems. This can provide a foundation for employing a reverse engineering approach to address gaps in clinical and health services research applied to cancer.”

The European Cancer Summit 2021 Declaration has already been endorsed by over 60 organisations from the European cancer community. If your organisation is interested in endorsing the Declaration, please contact us here.

  • Find out more on the European Cancer Summit 2021 here.
  • Read the European Cancer Summit 2021 Report here
  • Watch the session recordings and access valuable resources here.

The Time to Move Forward on Treatment Optimisation is Now!

On 28 January, the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) held an expert hearing devoted to the equal access to cancer medicines and treatments. Speaking at the hearing, Denis Lacombe, Director-General of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and Co-Chair of the Health Systems and Treatment Optimisation Network, highlighted the need for the European Union to move further forward on achieving the ambitions of the widely supported treatment optimisation agenda.

Denis Lacombe drew the attention of the Committee to recent scientific evidence highlighting clear gaps in the cancer research continuum, as well as in the knowledge on how to best use approved cancer treatments. These unaddressed areas are impeding patient access to optimal cancer treatment and yet are not gaining significant enough attention within prevalent EU strategies.

More information on the hearing, including a video recording and written summary, can be found here on the European Parliament website.

Building Wide Consensus around the Health Systems and Treatment Optimisation Agenda

Building upon its founding aims and Action Plan, an important activity of the Network since its establishment has been to widen awareness of, and consensus around, key underlying observations and ways to address inefficiencies, imbalances and inequalities in respect to cancer treatment and care delivery and access across Europe.

This has been made possible through a variety of high-level conversations with representatives of the European Cancer Organisation Member Societies, Patient Advisory Committee and Community 365, as well as other invited experts from the European cancer community. In 2021, the Network has been delighted to welcome new important participants to contribute to these activities, including from the fields of hematology, pancreatic cancer, rare cancers, independent cancer research and primary care.

Further public positioning is intended for early 2022, around the key recommendations of:

  • Independently assessing and publishing the critically needed questions in cancer research 
  • Reorientating funding to address the gaps in the cancer research continuum 

More information will be available soon following review by the European Cancer Organisation Policy Approval Pathway.


To find out more about this Network, or support our work, please contact us here.

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