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Horizon Europe’s Mission Conquering Cancer explained

September 28 2020

As we discussed in our earlier blog post the programme for Horizon Europe will be a reality soon. Based on discussions, polls, events and conferences with citizens and other stakeholders the focus of the Missions of Horizon Europe have been formulated. The overall goal of the EU's Mission on Cancer has been formulated as: “By 2030, more than 3 million lives saved, living longer and better”. In this blog we provide an graphical overview of the five effective interventions areas and the 13 recommendations for bold actions relating to the Mission ‘Conquering Cancer’. These recommendations will form a base for the EU's strategy the coming years, as well as the funding made available for biomedical innovators focusing on cancer related topics.

The five areas of intervention

Understand cancer, its risk factors and impact.

1. Launch UNCAN.eu – a European initiative to understand cancer

Despite tremendous progress in deciphering the genetic and biological basis of cancer, our molecular and cellular understanding of tumours and its interaction with its host is still very limited. The Mission Board proposes a Europe-wide platform, UNCAN.eu, utilising relevant research infrastructure and investing in the development of new models and technologies interrogating the interactions of cancers and their host. UNCAN.eu encompasses relevant stakeholders and enables integration of innovative models and technologies with longitudinal patient data, samples and biomarkers for identification and translation to patients.

2. Develop an EU-wide research programme to identify (poly-)genic risk scores

This action aims to assess the individual cancer risk with refined algorithms based on newly identified polygenic risk scores. Based on an increased understanding of individual cancer risks, education activities and counselling could be improved. Sampling and data collection would be harmonised to enable sharing on a existing European Research Infrastructure.

Prevent what is preventable

3. Support the development and implementation of effective cancer prevention strategies and policies within Member States and the EU

Preventing cancers calls for effective policy underpinned by excellent research. A research programme will be establish to identify effective cancer prevention strategies and methods to provide up-to-date knowledge to EU institutions and countries for designing and implementing effective cancer prevention measures at EU and national level.

4. Optimize existing screening programmes and develop novel approaches for screening and early detection

It is proposed to establish an EU-wide research programme to identify obstacles, optimise existing screening programmes and develop new approaches for screening and early detection of cancers. Studies will be designed together with citizens and other stakeholders, and support the development and implementation of innovative screening methods for cancers for which a reliable screening tool is lacking.

Optimize Diagnostics and Treatment

5. Advance and implement personalized medicine approaches for all cancer patients in Europe

The uptake of personalized medicine is hampered by lack of understanding and adapted implementation measures and access to personalized therapies. This recommendation aims to advance the methodology into outcome-based personalized medicines programmes in collaboration with clinical and HTA decision makers.

6. Develop an EU-wide research programme on early diagnostics and minimally invasive treatment

It is expected that many cancers will be detected at an earlier, less advanced stage. At the same time, the increasing implementation of effective preoperative treatment has shown better responses. This raises the question whether surgery is still justified. With the raise of minimally invasive treatments, the role of diagnostic methods becomes increasingly important. Integration of diagnostic markers driven by AI, imaging, pathology, genetic, liquid biopsy and clinical biomarkers can lead to more cure and better quality of life.

Support quality of life

7. Develop an EU-wide research programme and policy support to improve the quality of life of caner patients and survivors, family members and carers, and all persons with an increased risk of cancer

This research programme should start by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the holistic needs of all exposed to cancer. Methods and metrics should be developed to capture key elements of quality of life. There also is a need for supportive policies to identify and monitor physical and mental health problems by implement a health passport for people living with and after cancer.

8. Create a European Cancer Patient Digital Centre (ECPDC) where cancer patients and survivors can deposit and share their data for personalized medicine

The ECPDC should be a virtual network of patient-controlled health data that includes a summary of treatments and integration of patient-reported outcomes. This would be useful for cancer patients for sharing data, as a point of guidance and support and as a way to give patients a voice.

Ensure equitable access

9. Achieve Cancer Health Equity in the EU across the continuum of disease

Inequities exist in access to and quality of cancer prevention, screening, early detection, treatment care and survivorship support between Member States and among different socio-economic and demographic groups. These inequities should be overcome. This requires an in-depth understanding of their underlying factors at all levels of the health system. In addition, more knowledge is needed to better understand interactions between (multiple) behavioural and environmental risk factors and the impact on successful prevention initiatives of socio-economic and health inequities.

10. Set up a network of comprehensive cancer Infrastructures within and across all EU Member States to increase quality of research and care.

To ensure that each EU citizen or cancer patient has access to and could benefit from high-quality cancer research and care, it is proposed to support establishing a strong network of Comprehensive Cancer Infrastructures (CCIs) within and across EU Member States.The network will contribute to sharing experiences and harmonising standards of care and research implementation. CCIs are expected to liaise also with biobanking facilities, and to build strong partnerships with research institutes and universities.

Cross-cutting recommendations

11. Childhood cancers and cancers in adolescents and young adults: cure more and cure better

Whereas cancers in adults typically result from long-term processes, paediatric cancers develop early in life and over a much shorter period, suggesting that fewer but stronger events play a causal role. In addition to cancers that develop in early childhood, cancers in adolescents and young adults also require special attention, as their biological characteristics are distinct from (early) childhood cancers (and from cancers developing later in life). We need to increase our understanding of how cancers in children and adolescents/young adults initiate and develop. A synergistic mission drawing on existing ambitious EU networks and aligned with the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, focusing on the complex needs of paediatric cancer patients, survivors and their families could boost the transformation of paediatric cancer care.

12. Accelerate innovation and implementation of new technologies and create Oncology-focused Living Labs to conquer cancer

This recommendation aims to provide new ways for traditional and non-traditional innovators to contribute to cancer understanding, prevention, diagnostics and treatment, and quality of life support. For this purpose, it is proposed to create Oncology-focused Living Labs to conquer cancer in its broadest sense. These will collate best practices of multi-stakeholder collaborations, distilling principles for successful joint working. It will position the EU as the home of collaboration and research to tackle cancer in order to attract stakeholders across different sectors and disciplines to work on cancer challenges within the EU.

13. Transform cancer culture, communication and capacity building

It is proposed to develop a coherent set of cross-cutting, cross-sector actions to enable citizens, clinical practitioners (including nurses, primary care physicians), researchers, other stakeholders (e.g. policy-makers, health insurers, employers and trade unions) and communities within all Member States to rethink cancer and challenge cancer culture in all its dimensions.

Download the full Conquering Cancer mission here:

ttopstart and Horizon Europe

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