Fighting against cancer: why Europe needs a new Deal

The time to set ambitious yet achievable targets against cancer is now argue Peter Liese and Matti Aapro.

Photo credit: fotolia


Becoming the “world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050” was the very first and clear message of the new European Commission when it took office a few months ago.

The fight against climate change, re-launched by the European Commission with the Green Deal, is making big headlines, shifting debates, raising awareness and more importantly enticing urgent commitments with this simple message.

This is not the only fight Europe has on its hands. As the Commission launches its discussion on the European Beating Cancer Plan, we need a similarly clear, bold and ambitious target for the very important fight against cancer. We need a plan that is ambitious, realistic and measurable.


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Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Europe. According to the World Health Organisation, one out of five Europeans die because of cancer. As President von der Leyen mentioned in her political guidelines, around 40 percent of us will face cancer at some point in our lives.

Every single citizen in Europe is touched by cancer in some way. We have an ethical duty to ensure the fight against cancer is fully supported by the promise of European cooperation that the EU can deliver.

“The EU can play an important role by assisting countries and systems to align core standards and evidence-based indicators for evaluating the quality of cancer care”

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides correctly said last December about the European Beating Cancer Plan that, “the discussion needs to be as inclusive as possible”.

We couldn’t agree more. The EU needs to ensure that all stakeholders in cancer initiatives are involved and aligned to avoid duplications and identify potential gaps during the consultation process of the plan.

Moreover, we need to break down the borders of cancer care between countries, professions, sectors and stakeholders. We need to boost the quality of cancer care in all countries and take better care of cancer survivors.

The quality of cancer care matters and we need to keep improving the patients’ experience and outcomes. The EU can play an important role by assisting countries and systems to align core standards and evidence-based indicators for evaluating the quality of cancer care.

“The fight against cancer needs a strong new impetus and ambitious targets. As with the Green Deal, Europe needs to set big goals and inspire change”

It can also help harness the potential of data for greater alignment and interoperability between cancer registries.

Also, the right to be forgotten is not only important for our digital lives but also our real ones: cancer survivors should not be forced to declare their cancer diagnosis to insurers and banks ten years after the end of treatment for adults, and five years after the end of treatment for young people.

The fight against cancer needs a strong new impetus and ambitious targets. As with the Green Deal, Europe needs to set big goals and inspire change.

Health experts and professionals across Europe are already setting ambitious yet achievable targets, for example: achieving 70 percent long-term survival for patients with cancer by 2035; implementing effective strategies to eliminate cancers caused by HPV as a public health problem in all European countries by 2035; doubling survival for poor prognosis tumours; halving the deaths for childhood cancer in Europe by 2030.

Now is certainly not the time to limit ambition. Rather, let us all work together to unleash the full force of the EU in the fight against cancer.

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