Cancer – the search for medical breakthroughs and responding to global needs – will this year feature for the first time ever on the agenda of the World Economic Forum in Davos. ESO’s Franco Cavalli will be attending both sessions to promote calls from the World Oncology Forum for bold action to massively extend access to cancer detection, treatment and care, and improve the ‘ecosystem’ for developing and evaluating new therapies. In this guest blogpost, Martine Piccart, President of ECCO, traces the spirit of the World Oncology Forum back to the Paris Charter Against Cancer, and talks about what she would like to come out of the sessions at Davos.
In 2000, President Jacques Chirac signed the “Charter against Cancer” in front of 200 cancer specialists from all around the world. This landmark event, initiated by Professor David Khayat, stimulated many countries to put in place their “national” cancer plans. Unfortunately, and yet predictably, this collective enthusiasm to seriously address a major threat to the wellbeing of citizens of the earth not only did not reach all countries but progressively died down.
The European School of Oncology revived this crucial movement when it initiated the World Oncology Forum under the chairmanship of Dr Franco Cavalli. This initiative has again united leading cancer experts from different disciplines and different parts of the world to discuss the greatest challenges of the fight against cancer in the 21 century and prioritise possible solutions to an improved control of the “cancer epidemic”.
ECCO is engaged in similar strategic thinking that builds on its unique and very broad multidisciplinary platform to find more efficient ways to treat and care for cancer patients.
These efforts are critical in a world which is shockingly fragmented in the availability of essential cancer-fighting tools and resources and most importantly:
- Well-developed cancer registries – too many countries still lack these and, as a result, are unable to monitor the advance of the cancer epidemic and the variable impact of cancer prevention measures or cancer therapies.
- Adequate radiotherapy equipment (which is even non-existent in some parts of our supposedly modern world).
- Access to cancer drugs – it is unacceptable to see problems with access to old but effective drugs which no longer generate a “profit” and at the same time witness the growth of a “two-level” patient care reality where only a minority of patients are able to receive the most innovative but very expensive targeted anticancer drugs. There is a need for prioritization here, as not all these “innovative” drugs have been shown to deliver clinically meaningful benefits.
A revised partnership model involving academia, industry and governments is urgently needed as it will generate a healthier context with shared risks in the fascinating but difficult translation of basic science discoveries into improved and more personalized patient management. I hope the spotlight on cancer at the World Economic Forum will accelerate the creation of just such a partnership model.