Europe's Beating Cancer plan - BECA Committee final report

In “Promoting our European Way of Life”

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On 3 February 2021, the European Commission presented its long-awaited Europe's Beating Cancer plan. The plan is major initiative under the European health union, a process launched by the Commission in November 2020 with a first set of proposals to reinforce the EU's preparedness and response during health crises.

The plan is based on a wide consultation with stakeholder groups, the European Parliament and the Member States. It follows a 'health in all policies' approach and is linked to several other EU priorities, including the proposed Horizon Europe 'mission on cancer', the pharmaceutical strategy, the Farm to Fork strategy and the European health data space.

Europe's Beating Cancer plan sets out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the Member States' efforts at every stage of the disease: prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and improved quality of life of cancer patients and survivors.

Cross-cutting themes include research and innovation; digital and personalised medicine; and reducing cancer inequalities across the EU. A particular focus will be on childhood cancers. Under its 7 thematic headings, the plan comprises 10 flagship initiatives and 32 supporting actions, to be rolled out over the coming years. The cross-cutting actions will address key risk factors such as tobacco, harmful alcohol consumption, environmental pollution, and hazardous substances. The plan also aims to promote healthy diets and physical activity. Moreover, its objective is to eliminate cervical and other cancers caused by human papillomaviruses through vaccination.

The Commission will establish an EU cancer plan implementation group that will work closely with the European Parliament, the Member States, the Horizon Europe cancer mission board, and a stakeholder contact group, to be set up under the Health Policy Platform.

The plan will make full use of all available EU funding instruments, with a total of €4 billion being earmarked for actions addressing cancer, including from the EU4Health programme, Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programme.

Parliament's Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) is responsible for the file, which follows the procedure for an own-initiative report (INI). The rapporteur, Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew Europe, France) was appointed on 28 September 2020. The rapporteur presented her draft report at the BECA meeting of 15 July 2021. Deadline for tabling amendments was 14 September 2021. The amendments (more than 1 500) have been considered and discussed on 14 October and 8 November 2021 meetings.

On 23 February 2021, the Commission presented Europe's Beating Cancer plan to the Council working party on pharmaceuticals and medical devices. During the informal video conference of health ministers on 16 March 2021, ministers expressed their strong support and commitment to Europe's Beating Cancer plan. Many delegations emphasised that the plan was complementary to their national strategies and stressed the need to take into account the different starting points in Member States.

The European Committee of the Regions adopted an opinion on the Europe's Beating Cancer Plan on 1 December 2021 (Rapporteur: Birgitta Sacrédeus (SV/EPP)).

The vote in BECA committee took place on 9 December 2021 (the report was adopted with 29 votes in favour, 1 against, 4 abstentions); this meeting was the last one before the end of the BECA committee's mandate on 23 December 2021. The report recommends notably to take stronger EU action to address key risk factors and social determinants of cancer, to extend screening schemes and launching an EU platform of national screening centres, to facilitate access to cross-border health care and clinical trials for cancer patients, to extend the use of joint procurement procedures and manage shortages of cancer medicines, to guarantee the 'Right to be Forgotten' to all European patients, to enhance transparency of prices, use of public funding, clinical trials information, to ensure equal access to innovative cancer drugs and treatments, to secure adequate and sustained long-term funding, to strengthen the  Knowledge Centre on Cancer (launched in June 2021) and to reinforce the role of health professinals in cancer care.

On 16 February 2022, Members of the European Parliament debated the report concluding the work of Parliament's Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) – strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer – making recommendations aimed at combating the second most common cause of death in the EU. These include stronger EU action on risk factors, such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, wider screening, and more funding for research.

On 2 February 2022, the Commission launched a series of new initiatives, announced at the event 'Ensuring Equal Access for All: Cancer in Women - Europe's Beating Cancer Plan'. The Cancer Inequalities Registry will identify trends and disparities between Member States and regions. A cancer screening call for evidence will be used to update the 2003 Council Recommendation on screening. This is part of the Cancer Plan's target to ensure that 90% of the EU population who qualify for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings, are offered it by 2025 (see separate fiche). A Joint Action on HPV vaccination will support Member States to increase public understanding and awareness of HPV and promote vaccination uptake (see separate fiche). The EU Network of Youth Cancer Survivors will strengthen long-term follow-up in cancer care plans at national and regional level. It will also connect young persons with a history of cancer and their families as well as informal and formal carers. On 31 January 2024, the European Commission adopted  a  draft  Council Recommendation on vaccine-preventable cancers (see separate fiche).

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Author: Laurence Amand-Eeckhout, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/06/2024.