First-of-its-kind, the SIOPE Society Day (27th January 2017, Amsterdam, the Netherlands) presented the latest innovations and ideas on how to address the issues encountered by childhood cancer patients and survivors, as well the role of the SIOPE Strategic Plan in the EU Agenda.
Very importantly, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety V. Andriukaitis made a Special Address at this event. “Children first!” was his motto, as he showed his great support to the SIOPE Strategic Plan and appreciation of our initiatives. He finished his speech by reiterating that reducing the burden of childhood cancer is an important priority for the future EU health policy measures.
The day kicked off with the SIOPE Education Session and, more specifically, with a session on junior researchers in the field of childhood cancer. Representatives from the SIOP Young Investigators Network explained what is needed to encourage them to become the next generation of experts in paediatric haemato-oncology.
The current experts then shared their latest research advances and lessons learnt in the management of childhood cancers. SIOPE Board Member S. Bielack described the distinct features, needs and different outcomes of teenagers and young adults with cancer. The same topic was also covered by A. Ferrari, who explained the even bigger challenge occurring when this age-group suffers from very rare cancers. Both experiences led to cooperative initiatives between paediatric and adult oncology such as the pan-European ExPERT group (European Cooperative Study Group for Paediatric Rare Tumours) and the SIOPE-ESMO AYA Working Group. An educational session on paediatric oncology drug development led by G. Vassal explained the most urgent needs in this field: to base the development of new childhood cancer treatments on the drug’s mechanism of action, to reduce the delays in the start of paediatric development, to introduce a different concept of drug prioritisation as well as a more effective investment scheme. He concluded by introducing the work done by the SIOPE-ITCC-CDDF platform ‘ACCELERATE - Innovation for Children with Cancer’ – currently coordinating multi-stakeholder initiatives to address the existing bottlenecks in this field – and invited everyone to participate in the upcoming ACCELERATE Paediatric Oncology Conference on March 2-3, 2017 in Brussels (BE).
Representatives from the European Commission (DG Research, DG Health and DG Connect) agreed to be part of the SIOPE Society Day, and illustrated some of the available opportunities offered at the EU-level to address the Plan’s objectives. The meeting ended with 4 parallel interactive Panel Discussions focusing on research, public health and information and communication technology (ICT). Participants were invited to join each of these thematic groups, engage with EU Experts and ask targeted questions to the speakers in a personalised manner. In a session about childhood clinical trials in Europe, SIOPE President Elect P. Kearns explained the current perspectives after the 2014 adoption of the Clinical Trial Regulation (CTR). The SIOPE Strategic Plan included the provision for a ‘Clinical Trial Facilitation platform’ to assess the needs of the childhood cancer research community and produce guidance documents simplifying the setup of clinical trials on paediatric cancer. R. Pieters illustrated the progress made by paediatric oncology research in the past decades, taking the example of how clinical trials addressing acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) managed to greatly improve the outcomes in young patients. A. Biondi (Italy) developed the important subject of immunotherapy even more in depth, exemplifying the successful case of melanoma and ALL.
Amsterdam yesterday has been the beating heart of childhood cancer specialists around Europe: expert speakers from multidisciplinary tumour boards, national paediatric haemato-oncology societies, and high-level EU policy makers. All these people contributed to a unique event by reasserting their commitment to collaborate to ensure that children and adolescents will receive the best possible cancer treatment and live full and meaningful lives after surviving this disease.