European Week Against Cancer: EU must re-energise its collective efforts in fight against cancer

Prevention is a key factor; last century, we witnessed many landmark discoveries in the fight against cancer, let’s strive for many more, writes Loucas Fourlas.
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By Loucas Fourlas

Loucas Fourlas (CY, EPP) is co-chair of Parliament’s MEPs against Cancer Interest Group

25 May 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the fact that the world was unprepared to deal with such a disease. It reminded us all that such a highly contagious virus is capable of destroying the world economy, of radically changing normality and having a serious social and mental impact on people’s lives.

A year ago, we were in the dark, without access to testing on a large scale, waiting for vaccines.

Now, we have millions of tests and vaccines at our disposal. What clearly prevails, a year and a half from the pandemic’s outbreak is the vaccination of citizens. The goal is to make tens of millions of effective and safe vaccines available immediately to both Europe’s citizens and beyond.

There is a real need to vaccinate as many as we can around the world, so that we are all protected against the virus. Today, the outlook for the next two months is more positive. We have four vaccines in sizeable quantities at our disposal, and the pharmaceutical companies have delivered on their commitment to increase production.

The EU has both the prerogatives and the expertise to cope with the crisis. 

“At a minimum, we need to double the amount that the EU spends on cancer research”

We have worked hard to ensure that European citizens with chronic and rare diseases are not neglected during this crisis. However, due to the exceptional situation, it was impossible to achieve this to the fullest extent.

The fight against cancer is one of the EU’s main health priorities and, now that we are moving towards the end of the COVID pandemic, we will be able to continue our collective battle seamlessly and intensively. What we achieved in ten months with vaccines shows what we can do when we equip and finance the scientific community.

We currently have a concrete European plan against cancer in order to support Member States improving control and care and reducing the impact caused. The main objective is to maximise the scientific, economic and social impact of the Union’s investments in research and innovation.

This includes an increase in funding for cancer research, gathering data, ensuring equal quality care across the EU and encouraging prevention and early detection.

At a minimum, we need to double the amount that the EU spends on cancer research. Cancer research can be more successful and more effective if Europe’s best scientists work together and when patients can benefit from discoveries, wherever they live in Europe.

As rare cancers are a major public health issue, we also need to focus on paediatric studies for cancer treatments and orphan medicines and work to save the large number of rare cancer patients in Europe. 

The plan to tackle cancer sets out recommendations on how to promote research and eventually ‘control’ the disease. The EU will invest billions of euros in the overall response, on aspects ranging from prevention of risk factors to support survival and end-of-life care, so the more funding the better.

Personally, I will continue, with my colleagues, to fight to get the greatest possible funding. I will also ensure that we provide financial support to the families of children who need to travel abroad for treatment, given that a large number of parents caring for sick children end up losing their income.

In addition, simplifying administrative procedures for reimbursement and allowances will promote the wellbeing of cancer patients and will enable them to concentrate on their treatment. It’s our duty to ensure that the last thing that a patient or a parent of a child with cancer should worry about, are bureaucratic obstacles or the lack of financial resources.

MEPs on the European Parliament’s Beating Cancer (BECA) Committee are working together to improve cancer control and prevention, believing that European solidarity and cooperation add value to the actions of Member States.

Cancer research, therefore, requires networks of international cooperation to achieve optimal results. Working on a European network gives us access to the levels of expertise we need to find new treatments for rare diseases.

“As co-chair of the MEPs against Cancer group and a member of the BECA committee, I want to be sure that we are doing our best to ensure that in two to three decades from now, nobody in the EU loses their lives to cancer”

Via the EU network we can determine the best treatment for patients, be it in their own country or in another European country. Research into cancer and the effort to tackle it is continuous and tireless.

A number of scientific discoveries are very promising, giving hope to patients and relatives, even at an experimental stage. The big pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies need to overcome a number of major obstacles, relating to high cost, in order to make these treatments widely available.

Screening and early detection only comes through the understanding of cancer, so we have given strong support to the use of research funds.

Prevention is a key factor; last century, we witnessed many landmark discoveries in the fight against cancer, let’s strive for many more.

As co-chair of the MEPs against Cancer group and a member of the BECA committee, I want to be sure that we are doing our best to ensure that in two to three decades from now, nobody in the EU loses their lives to cancer.

Read the most recent articles written by Loucas Fourlas - Rare diseases are not so rare

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