European Cancer Organisation

November 2011


Ninth letter to our Community / 16 November 2011

As President of ECCO - the European CanCer Organisation, and Congress Chair of our recent European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm, I am pleased to say that this multi-professional gathering was a great success. The overwhelming consensus from the five-day event was that the case for multidisciplinarity was made clear, and appreciated by participants. Truly multidisciplinary conferences such as Stockholm not only work, but also serve to establish standards for the future. And the biennial ECCO, ESMO, ESTRO congresses have become an important milestone on the world congress agenda in achieving this.

15,931 participants from 116 different countries attended an outstanding 33-track programme containing the latest developments in cancer research, treatment and care, compiled by 262 Scientific Committee members. 285 programme sessions hosted over 2,000 presentations from 694 eminent experts containing their latest data, knowledge and experience. A record number of 34 late-breaking abstracts presented practice-changing data in four presidential sessions and 25 proffered paper sessions.

Personalised medicine

In the era of personalised medicine, the multidisciplinary and multi-professional approach advances tailored cancer therapy and care. These tailored approaches have the potential to help change the landscape of oncology and have huge implications for all disciplines involved, serving to reinforce and expand the multidisciplinary approach by bringing together basic researchers, clinicians and other stakeholders in both research and implementation. Personalised medicine is expected to become integral to everyday clinical practice within the next five to ten years, continuously evolving as new disciplines are added to the process.

Today, multidisciplinarity is increasingly carried out in daily clinical practice, a very important advantage for cancer patients. The move to multidisciplinary trials and collaborative discussion of the best data is the next step for better patient treatment and care. The Stockholm congress enabled oncology professionals, patient advocates and those interested in shaping policy alike to see the tangible benefits of all cancer disciplines working together, with active patient involvement at the heart of discussions. This is the future of oncology, and it is up to the oncology community to ensure that it happens now rather than later.

Every cancer patient deserves the best

ECCO exists to uphold the right of all European cancer patients to the best possible treatment and care, promoting interaction between all organisations involved in cancer research, education, treatment and care at European level. A major aim of ECCO is to help all stakeholders grasp the immense implications and major challenges facing oncology professionals and specialists in treating an increasingly ageing and diverse population, especially in an era of targeted therapies.

Evolving cancer landscape

Our world is ageing and in Europe, it is even shrinking, with declining birth rates in many European countries. The average citizen lives 30 years longer than a century ago and the number of people over 60 now outweighs the number of children under the age of five for the first time in the world’s history. There are two million new cancer patients every year in Europe, with more than 10 million long-term survivors. Cancer has become the most frequent cause of death in developed countries, but 50 per cent of the world’s cancer burden, in terms of both numbers of cases and deaths, occurs in developing countries. The crude rate of occurrence is set to increase globally by 50 per cent by 2030. For oncology, this means an increase in elderly patients as well as increasing occurrence of comorbities. And even high-income countries are struggling to fund the increasing demands of their health care systems.

The cost of cancer due to premature deaths and disability worldwide (not including direct medical costs) was estimated at US $985 billion in 2008. Cancer is one of the most expensive forms of healthcare, and this evolving landscape requires crucial changes to ensure continued delivery of the highest quality of treatment and care from the oncology profession. These include the accelerated transition from a monospeciality approach to the development of multidisciplinary strategies, as well as more function-sparing and personalised approaches.

All existing and future patients must have fair access to quality care and to innovation. This can only be guaranteed by multidisciplinarity, transparent and evidence-based analysis, as well as policy development. This is at the heart of all ECCO’s efforts to ensure that every cancer patient receives the best. It is also the reason why ECCO’s efforts to promote multidisciplinary collaboration are continuous, and go far beyond the realm of our preeminent congress.

ECCO also continues to advance European cancer therapeutics and prevention, striving to be the driving force for multidisciplinary oncology as well as enhancing the multidisciplinary community through our continuous search for further stakeholders and focus on continued education.

ECCO Founding and Society Members represent the pillars of advanced cancer research, treatment and care in Europe. Their work and efforts enable progress in each individual field of diagnosis and treatment. Combined with ECCO’s drive to advance the multidisciplinary and multi-professional approach to oncology, the effect does indeed go far beyond the remit of the Congress in achieving the best cancer treatment and care, together

Michael Baumann, ECCO President


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