3rd October 2023
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it serves as a reminder of the importance of early detection and effective treatments. But awareness alone isn’t enough; it is also a time for action and collaboration. Last week, a discussion on cancer research and care was brought to the forefront of national conversation during the EU Cancer Mission Day –Ireland, which took place in Dublin.
The event was hosted by the All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI) and the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) through the Establishing of Cancer Mission Hubs: Networks and Synergies (ECHoS) project. ECHoS is a new three-year European consortium supported by the Mission on Cancer and Ireland is represented within the ECHoS project by the NCCP, as the primary national lead, and the AIRCI led by University College Dublin (UCD).
Both the NCCP and AICRI will collaborate closely with the consortium coordinators and leading experts across Europe, to establish a National Cancer Mission Hub (NCMH) in Ireland. Taking a collaborative approach and patient-centric focus, the mission is expected to offer promising opportunities for Irish researchers, healthcare professionals, and patient advocates.
Understanding the EU Cancer Mission
Part of Horizon Europe, the EU Cancer Mission is an initiative aimed at transforming cancer research and care across Europe. This mission seeks to improve the lives of over 3 million people by 2030 through innovative research, prevention, early detection, and equitable access to cancer care.
Key Takeaways from the EU Cancer Mission-Ireland Event
- Plans were shared to accelerate cancer research and development, involving intersectoral training, and potential benefits of a new funding programme for cancer research in Ireland, including increased participation in European calls and collaboration with Northern Ireland.
- Speakers highlighted the European Cancer Mission’s aim to improve understanding of cancer mechanisms, enhance equity in access to care, and generate comprehensive data for research. Plans to establish a European Cancer Prevention Centre were announced, as well as a European Cancer Patient Digital Centre. This will focus on improving quality of life for patients, and provide an opportunity to generate comprehensive data where patients will have access to and control over their information, and where it’s appropriate and consented to, data would be available to support research.
- The impact of cancer was illustrated by the statistic that in 2021 alone, 3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide, with approximately 685,000 of those women losing their lives to the disease. Speakers called for improved strategies to manage breast cancer and improve outcomes and survival. Current limitations of mammography and the potential of thermography as an alternative imaging modality for breast cancer screening were highlighted.
Keynote Speech by the Minister of Health
A recurring theme at the event was the need to address disparities in cancer care and research. Equity in access to care and treatment is a key concern, and the EU Cancer Mission works to reduce these disparities. In his keynote address during the afternoon session, Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD said, “Our National Cancer Strategy is built around ensuring that every man, woman, and child can access world-class care. And Ireland has a remarkably positive story to tell in terms of cancer detection, treatment, and survivorship, with a focus on engaging young people and marginalised communities.”
He also highlighted the importance for a National Patient Registry to complement the National Cancer Registry and improve patient management. “I think the mission’s aim of promotion of prevention, and early detection is critical. One of Ireland’s notable successes, recognised globally in the oncology community, is our national screening programmes. Our high participation rates, strong focus on prevention, and effective diagnostic processes have attracted global recognition.”
At EIT Health, we are committed to playing our part in the fight against cancer. We have developed and launched numerous innovative solutions focused on the early detection and diagnosis of cancer – see examples here.
To learn more about how EIT Health can contribute to the EU cancer mission and for other collaboration opportunities, get in touch.