The European Academy of Cancer Sciences was launched at the joint ECCO-ESMO Congress. The goal, ECCO President Professor Alexander Eggermont said in his announcement there, is to create a stronger, more unified approach to cancer health and research policy and to ensure that cancer is at the top of the political agenda in Europe.
“It will provide independent, authoritative, evidence-based advice, which is very different from a lot of the consulting that goes on now,” he said.
The Academy is to be a virtual body, bringing together a group of 114 founding members with outstanding scientific and academic backgrounds. Initially, 30 experts were selected for their expertise and reputation, and these 30 then voted for the other members.
The group includes Nobel laureates Sir Paul Nurse and Harald zur Hausen, as well as epidemiologist Sir Richard Peto and Umberto Veronesi, Director of the European Institute of Oncology in Milan. There are also members from the ECCO Board and Policy Committee.
Elected membership is a life-long distinction, and the Academy aims to elect up to 50 new members a year, said Professor Eggermont, who has been appointed the Academy's first president.
The Academy is to begin by preparing a strategy paper on how best to boost cancer research in Europe. The paper, which they hope to have prepared by the end of 2010, will look at barriers to research and how they can be addressed, in addition to setting priorities.
Other issues for consideration will initially be chosen by the ECCO Policy Committee, but as the organization evolves it is hoped that questions and requests for information and advice will come from a wider number of venues, including patient organizations, health care professionals, policy-makers, and politicians.
“We hope that, by keeping a close eye on policy developments that might affect cancer and offering expert advice to those responsible for decision-making, we will be able in the future to avoid some of the recent decisions that have had so much potential to harm cancer patients and the oncology community,” Professor Eggermont said.
He cited as examples of this the Clinical Trials Directive that greatly reduced the amount of academic clinical research in oncology in Europe, and the Physical Agents (Electromagnetic Fields) Directive, which had the potential to stop all MRI scanning in Europe.
“We are optimistic that this new initiative will have a positive effect on all those associated with cancer, be they patients, doctors, scientists, or care givers, and we look forward to the time when cancer takes its rightful place on the policy agenda,” Professor Eggermont said.