Imperative of continual support by the European Community for future advances in paediatric oncology in Europe: meeting report of the EC-funded science-communication project DIRECT “Overcoming Cancer with Research”
Remarkable advances in paediatric cancer research and treatment were achieved during the last decades: In industrialised nations, overall cure rates were raised from below 20% to over 75% during the last forty years. Randomised investigator-driven clinical trials have been the backbone of this progress so far. The EU Clinical Trial Directive was introduced to improve the quality and safety of drug development; however, it has created considerable administrative “extra” workload as well as financial constraints for trials aiming at cancer treatment optimisation in children. It failed to provide harmonisation for clinical trials throughout Europe because translation into national law was highly divergent. To address the resulting challenges for future advances in European paediatric oncology including the promotion of new drug development, improved communication between all stakeholders is warranted.
Supported by the EC-funded FP7 science-communication project “DIRECT”, a meeting of European paediatric oncologists, representatives of patients’ and parents’ associations, survivors, and competent authorities was organised to investigate past successes and future challenges in paediatric oncology in Europe.
The DIRECT-Symposium contributed to assess what is required in the future to advance the care and closer approach to “total cure” of European children and adolescents with cancer in all medical, psychological and social aspects. Various strategies were discussed and are summarised in this article.
EC-funded science-communication projects such as DIRECT are successful means to foster the public awareness of the necessities in caring for and curing paediatric cancer patients in the future. Amongst these, appreciation of the specific conditions and a need of continual funding by the EU are imperative.