Inequalities Network

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Why a Network on Inequalities?

Levels of health inequality between countries and regions with respect to cancer prevention, control, access to treatment and survival can no longer be ignored. Inequalities also occur within countries, between regions, and between social groups.

The inequalities that can arise with respect to marginalised and vulnerable groups should not be overlooked either. As just one example for illustrative purposes, studies have found that migrant populations have greater difficulty navigating unfamiliar healthcare systems, are less likely to participate in screening programmes and may also find themselves denied cancer treatment.

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Panel discussion at the European Cancer Summit 2020 session “Inequalities: Disparities and Discrimination in Cancer Care”.

Driven by a common desire to achieve urgent actions to address these problems, the Network on Inequalities, led by Co-Chairs Nicolò Matteo Luca Battisti and Hendrik Van Poppel, is shining a spotlight on the readily available policy mechanisms to bridge gaps and raise standards and outcomes in cancer care across all of Europe, for all groups in society.

A strong alignment in this work is made with the European Code of Cancer Practice and its aspiration to ensure every cancer patient in Europe has their rights to quality treatment and care upheld, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status or geographic location.

With the personal commitment of EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides to combatting inequalities in cancer care, the time is now to make progress!


It Can Be Done: Beating Inequalities in Cancer Care 
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Véronique Trillet-Lenoir MEP, Member of the EU Special Committee on Beating Cancer and Co-Chair of MEPs Against Cancer, moderating a session at the European Cancer Organisation’s Community 365 Roundtable Meeting on Inequalities.

Upon establishing the Inequalities Network, followed by discussions with our Member Societies, Patient Advisory Committee and Community 365, the following five workstreams were identified:

  • East-West Divide
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Health Literacy and Patient Education

To exchange knowledge, ideas and policy recommendations, our President, Matti Aapro, co-chaired a high-level roundtable meeting on Inequalities in cancer care in October 2020 which heard contributions from, among others:

John Ryan, Director of Public Health Country Knowledge and Crisis Management, DG Sante

Enrique Soto, Older Adults Task Force of the American Society of Clinical Oncology

Kathy Oliver, Vice-Chair of our Patient Advisory Committee and Founding Co-Director and Chair of the International Brain Tumour Alliance (IBTA). The meeting examined two core themes:

  • Treating Ageing Patients with Cancer,
  • The East-West Divide in cancer care,

An Action Report from the Roundtable “It Can Be Done – Beating Inequalities in Cancer Care” provides headline recommendations and case studies demonstrating how achievable improvements in these two areas of inequalities are. Key points of advice for national health systems include:

  • Enshrining the ten key rights of cancer patients set out in the European Code of Cancer Practice as a core tool and paradigm for delivering equitable cancer care
  • Ensuring wide access to reliable data to better identify national cancer control priorities and the accompanying development of cancer policies that truly reflect the local context
  • From this, fully implementing data-driven national cancer control plans (NCCP) in all countries
  • Treating each cancer patient as an individual, not a simple representative of an age category. Cancer care must take individual account of the patient’s health status, associated comorbidities and socioeconomic situation
  • All national cancer plans should include dedicated attention to the needs of older cancer patients
  • Deploying standardised treatment pathways to ensure all cancer patients receive quality care along the patient pathway

View the video recording of the meeting and the presentation slides here.


A European Cancer Dashboard to Drive Improvement Across Areas of Inequality

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Lori Pierce, President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, speaking at the European Cancer Summit 2020 session “Inequalities: Disparities and Discrimination in Cancer Care”.

At the European Cancer Summit 2020 session “Inequalities: Disparities and Discrimination in Cancer Care”, expert speakers from around the world gave evidence on cancer inequality issues.

Lori Pierce, President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) illustrated challenges in the USA in relation to divergent outcomes for cancer patients based on ethnicity.

Richard Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Cancer Policy, and Director of the Institute of Cancer Policy at the King's College London showed the unequal financial impacts of a cancer diagnosis for individuals based on socio-economic status.

Robert Greene, Member of the European Cancer Organisation’s Patient Advisory Committee and Board Member of the European Cancer Patient Coalition, indicated the relevance of the European Code of Cancer Practice as a framework for addressing inequalities in cancer care.

Kateřina Konečná MEP, Member of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer, raised the problem of substance addiction as a driver of inequality, especially relevant to cancer in respect to tobacco and alcohol. She called for an upgrade in behavioural understanding by healthcare professionals and health systems to address this.

At the end of the session participants in the European Cancer Summit overwhelmingly passed a resolution indicating a consensus around one particular tool that the EU could deploy to help combat inequalities in cancer care. The Inequalities resolution of the European Cancer Summit 2020:

“Europe's Beating Cancer Plan must address huge inequalities across Europe, between and within countries.

A powerful means to raise the bar is a European Cancer Dashboard, including the European Code of Cancer Practice, to report key metrics and ensure quality cancer care.”

  • Find out more on the 2020 European Cancer Summit here.
  • Watch the session recordings and access valuable resources here.
  • Read the report of the Summit here.

The organisations involved in the Inequalities Network have kindly provided relevant links to their work in this Network which can be accessed under “Related Resources” on the right-hand side of this page.


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

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