Patients and innovation at the heart of cancer care
February 4th, World Cancer Day, is always a good moment to think about how we can renew our commitment to preventing and managing a disease that imposes a heavy burden on individuals and on society. The challenges ahead are significant, but now more than ever, the cancer community stands united in the face of them. In Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, we have a powerful tool to guide our work. Success requires we implement it at European and national level, embracing innovative new tools for screening, diagnosis, treatment and care and fostering world-leading research in Europe. Always with the patient and citizen in mind.
Today’s therapies, technologies and vaccines can reduce the number of people affected by cancer and limit demand on existing services.
Over recent years we have begun to see what is possible if they are used widely and equitably. More than 27,000 cases of cervical cancer and 12,000 deaths could be prevented every year through HPV vaccination. Innovative therapies have increased the five-year survival rate for people with stage IV melanoma by 120% over the past 20 years. Through science, research and development of new treatments, we are transforming the lives of patients with cancer.
Cancer therapies in the pipeline
Looking to the future, the pipeline of treatments in development promises further advances with the power to change people’s lives and impact societies and economies positively. Cancer remains a key focus of medical science: oncology R&D represents 25% of ongoing clinical trials.
Revolutionary treatments using CAR-T therapies are transforming areas such as blood cancer, making it possible for the body to fight back against tumour cells. More potential game-changers may be on the horizon. The capacity of another promising new class of cancer immunotherapies, known as BiTE’s platform (Bispecific T-cell Engager), is being explored in a range of tumour types.
In addition, precision oncology continues to deliver on its promises with major benefits for patients, physicians and healthcare systems.
It is in everyone’s interest that scientific advances continue to address unmet need. But from a European perspective, it is not just if but where innovation is happening. On that front, the news is less encouraging.
R&D investments are shifting out of Europe. According to a recent study, Europe’s share of global medicines R&D has shrunk by one quarter in 20 years. Just two decades ago, the amount of investment made by pharmaceutical companies in R&D in the US and Europe differed by only €2 billion. In 2020, the difference had increased to almost €25 billion, with Europe increasingly falling behind.
This affects patients as clinical trials move away from Europe, but it has also obvious implications for people’s jobs and the region’s economic growth. Since 2020, CAR-T trials have almost tripled. But only 2 in 10 clinical trials happen in Europe. We want to ensure that European patients are not left behind. We want Europeans to be able to participate in clinical trials run in Europe. We want Europe to be at the forefront of treatment, of clinical trials, of research and development together with the investment, jobs and growth that go along with it.
Investing in the innovation ecosystem
There is no doubt that Europe retains appeal for international innovators working on tomorrow’s oncology treatments. However, without strong and sustained investment in infrastructure, the decline will continue.
Europe needs world-class innovation hubs, an ecosystem that fosters (and retains) high-growth biotech companies, and a policy and regulatory environment that encourages and rewards innovation.
Innovation in oncology is about more than medicines. We want Europe’s research and manufacturing infrastructure – and its healthcare systems – to be ready to quickly absorb and operationalize innovations from data, digital, diagnostics and therapeutic sectors.
Creativity and openness will be essential to meeting Europe’s rising demand for cancer services as other resources, including hospital capacity and the healthcare workforce are finite. This will mean rethinking how and where we deliver care to ensure high quality cancer care for all is sustainable.
Let’s apply an innovative mindset to all aspects of healthcare, using artificial intelligence to accelerate diagnosis; offering home-based cancer care where appropriate; and supporting survivors through eHealth solutions that connect the cancer community.
Let’s ensure that patients are supported to play a greater role at all stages of research into all innovative approaches to cancer care.
Let’s unlock the value of personalised cancer care through broader access to quality biomarkers.
We must also include environmental sustainability in how we consider the value of innovation. High-quality remote patient care, reduced dependence on single-use surgical products, and lower energy consumption in hospitals, can ensure health systems minimise their environmental footprint. These issues and more are addressed in our new report: Innovation for Sustainable Cancer Care.
Addressing access to innovation
Our EFPIA Oncology Platform vision is that every patient in Europe has timely access to the cancer care he/she needs.
Solidarity is a cornerstone of the EU and we cannot speak about Europe if inequalities exist across and within member states: big steps forwards towards equity are needed to tackle the cancer crisis and to improve the lives of more than 3 million people by 2030 as per EU Mission: Cancer (europa.eu) and Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’s goal.
We will continue to highlight inequalities within and between Member States, by working with partners on initiatives like the European Cancer Pulse.
On World Cancer Day, we renew our commitment to improving outcomes for patients and to making Europe an attractive place to shape the future of oncology.
On World Cancer Day, we call #CloseTheCareGap supporting and investing in innovation to enable sustainability, foster equity and promote patient-centred, multidisciplinary care.