With more than 3.7 million new cases and 1.9 million deaths each year, cancer represents, after heart disease, the second most important cause of death and morbidity in Europe.
The disease, according to the World Health Organisation, causes about 20 percent of deaths each year in Europe.
Tobacco consumption and excessive alcohol consumption cause about 40 percent of the total cancer burden and lung, breast, stomach, liver and colon cancer cause the most cancer deaths each year.
Some 651 MEPs voted for the committee to be set up while 28 were against. The committee will have a twelve-month mandate and a permanent subcommittee.
Reacting to the move, Italian EPP MEP Aldo Patriciello told this site, “Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in the European Union, creating enormous suffering for European citizens.”
“The committee will be tough on tobacco - one of the main sources of avoidable cancer - but will not avoid important discussions on how to best make use of less harmful alternatives in the fight against cancer” Aldo Patriciello MEP
“In the current state of knowledge, 40 percent of all cancers are preventable. The EU has therefore made cancer one of its top health priorities and the European Commission will present its ambitious cancer strategy [Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan] by the end of this year.”
He added, “The European Parliament is committed to contribute to this strategy and has therefore established a dedicated Special Committee on Cancer. This committee will pool all available resources and knowledge to add value to Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. The Committee will look into all dimensions of cancer, from prevention to treatment.”
He went on, “In its work, the committee will not back down from demanding difficult discussions, such as transforming the behaviour of individuals into a healthier lifestyle.”
“To fulfil its objective, the committee will be tough on tobacco - one of the main sources of avoidable cancer - but will not avoid important discussions on how to best make use of less harmful alternatives in the fight against cancer.”
Dr Matti Aapro, President of the European Cancer Organisation, a not-for-profit federation, described the new committee as “wonderful news”, adding that the move “represents an important step in the long-term dedication of many MEPs to the fight against cancer.”
Aapro said, “We applaud that the representatives of Europe’s citizens are taking this once-in-a-generation opportunity to elevate and accelerate EU cancer policy.”
“Cancer touches the lives of every citizen in every country. United action against cancer can synergise activity and help achieve new levels of success in this battle. We also need to urgently begin undoing the enormous damage to cancer care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We encourage the committee to help ensure the ‘Beating Cancer Plan,’ EU ‘Cancer Mission’ and other connected initiatives are bold, ambitious and inspiring. Key cross-cutting issues such as tackling inequalities, enhancing our workforce and giving focus to the quality of cancer care that patients receive, should be important areas of the Committee’s attention.”
Aapro said he looks forward to working together with the Parliament, 31 European cancer member societies and 20 patient advocacy groups “to make cancer policy the best it can possibly be.”
“We applaud that the representatives of Europe’s citizens are taking this once-in-a-generation opportunity to elevate and accelerate EU cancer policy” Dr Matti Aapro, President of the European Cancer Organisation
Further reaction came from Natacha Cingotti, senior policy officer at the Brussels-based Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), who told this website, “In our view, a special parliamentary committee on beating cancer should make prevention through enhanced environmental regulation one of its top priorities.”
“For instance, it should push the European Commission to regulate more strictly environmental chemicals that play a role in cancer occurrence, so that human exposure is truly minimised.”
EPP group leader Manfred Weber also welcomed the new committee, urging it to push for “an intensified EU effort to beat cancer.”
The German MEP said he hoped the committee will “aim to step up efforts to improve treatment and strengthen research efforts across the EU.”
Weber said, “The EPP group is also urging Europeans to get involved, with the #EUCanBeatCancer campaign.”
“Millions of Europeans are suffering due to cancer. It is a tragedy for the families involved and for society as a whole. We must shift the trend - we must join all our forces and beat cancer.”
During the European electoral campaign last year, the EPP group, he noted, had sought to put fighting cancer at the top of the European agenda with, amongst others, a special parliamentary committee to make new policy proposals.
He said, “We have delivered on our promise. Now it is time to combine and upgrade our efforts. This is not only a political party issue anymore; it is becoming an issue for the whole European Union. The goal is to present a comprehensive master plan next year in the fight against cancer. We can only beat cancer if we work together.”
The EPP, Parliament’s biggest group, has made two proposals on how to step up the fight against cancer.
These include a call to increase funding for cancer research by 50 percent, from €80 to €120bn, over the next seven years (2021-2027).
Another proposal is to pool data to ensure the same quality of care across the EU and to encourage prevention and early detection.
“The establishment of this special committee is part of a wider campaign to mobilise all possible support and resources in Europe in the fight against cancer,” Weber said.
According to Parliament’s rules of procedures, a special committee can be extended twice and cannot adopt legislative text.