Cancer is the leading cause of death for Europeans under the age of 65 and forecasts warn that it will affect half of the population in their lifetime. The fight against this disease is one of the key issues on the health agenda that Spain will take to the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which it will hold in the second half of 2023.
It will be an opportunity to address the importance of biomedical innovation in this area and to make progress on the European initiatives already underway in this regard. One of these is the Cancer Mission, one of the five pillars of Horizon Europe, the framework programme for research and innovation in the region for the period 2021-2027. “This mission aims to advance coordinated R&D and innovation projects to improve the lives of more than three million Europeans by 2030. The aim is to promote prevention, diagnosis, better treatments for greater survival and quality of life for patients and their families,” says Amelia Martín Uranga, associate director of Clinical Research and Translational Medicine at Farmaindustria.
To gain an in-depth understanding of the characteristics of this mission and the possibilities it presents for the development of new projects, Farmaindustria organised a session on Tuesday with around 40 pharmaceutical companies together with the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI). Marta Quintanilla, the Spanish representative of the Health Cluster in Horizon Europe, the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI) and the subgroup of the Cancer Mission, was in charge of explaining the implementation of this project from the CDTI. The main objectives of this mission are to identify and exploit R&D&I results to accelerate their transfer to public health and clinical practice, establish a common strategic agenda, create a link between R&D&I and the development of European policies and increase intersectoral collaboration in oncology.
The CDTI representative stressed that there are four cross-cutting priorities for the projects: equality, innovation, paediatric tumours and personalised medicine. She added that projects should, in general, involve patients and carers and other disciplines, and increase the focus on tangible results that generate social impact and healthcare-oriented solutions.
In addition to Mission Cancer, Europe launched in 2021 the European Plan to Combat Cancer, with the aim of helping Member States to improve control and care in this pathology and to curb inequalities. Thus, Farmaindustria considers it a priority to adopt measures aimed at guaranteeing equal access to prevention and treatment for all European citizens. This is a problem in the EU and also within the Member States, as reflected in the data from the European Cancer Inequalities Register, produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
This report indicates that in Spain the path from the approval of cancer drugs to their effective prescription is complex and that there are major differences between autonomous communities. “Working on the decentralisation of clinical trials – currently concentrated in Madrid and Catalonia – will benefit professionals and the health system and, above all, patients,” stresses Martín Uranga.
In addition to improving patient access to new drugs, it is also a priority to speed up patient participation in clinical trials. This can be achieved through decentralisation, the promotion of cross-border clinical trials within the EU or the full implementation of the new European Clinical Trials Regulation. Sharing information and exploiting the measurement of health data (the so-called real world data) in accordance with ethical guarantees and the regulation of personal data protection are other priorities that the industry considers essential to address during the upcoming Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU. In order to make progress in the fight against cancer, it would also be important to consider the adoption of additional incentives to attract research to critical fields such as childhood cancer and the development of comprehensive cancer centres where the pathology is addressed from an integrated healthcare, research and teaching perspective.
The pharmaceutical industry already conveyed its priorities for the six months of the Spanish Presidency to the Government during the high-level meeting held in December with the Government, which marked the launch of the Strategic Plan for the Pharmaceutical Industry. The challenge lies in promoting a biomedical research ecosystem on the continent, based on the protection of intellectual property and flexible and equitable access to innovation, and more resilient drug production and supply chains that make Spain a hub for innovation and drug manufacturing within the EU.