Today, a new consortium on cancer is launching in Europe. Establishing of Cancer Mission Hubs: Networks and Synergies (ECHoS) is a new three-year European consortium supported by the Mission on Cancer, bringing together the leading expertise of more than 50 governmental, healthcare, academic, and non-profit organisations from 28 countries.
It aims to coordinate research and innovation (R&I) and healthcare actions on cancer. National Cancer Mission Hubs (NCMHs) will also be created in each country to engage a broad range of stakeholders from both public and private sectors in collaborative initiatives and policy dialogues on cancer, at national, regional and local levels.
Ireland is represented within the ECHoS project by the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), as the primary national lead, and the All-Island Cancer Research Institute (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 in Ireland. This combined effort will coordinate R&I and healthcare actions on cancer, moving policy-making processes towards people-centric healthcare and research systems in ways that cannot be achieved through individual efforts and fragmented initiatives.
Professor William Gallagher, Professor of Cancer Biology at UCD and co-lead of AICRI, said: “Creating a National Cancer Mission Hub in Ireland represents a key step towards strengthening the voice of national stakeholders in cancer policies in Europe. It will foster national and international collaboration, promote inclusivity, and drive innovation in cancer care. Therefore, we expect ECHoS to contribute to accelerating cancer research in our country.
“This is an opportunity to tailor our cancer landscape to the precise needs of our patients and society. The All-Island Cancer Research Institute has made significant progress towards establishing an overarching framework for cancer research across the island of Ireland, with the ECHoS project providing an ideal opportunity to work closely with the National Cancer Control Programme to establish the National Cancer Mission Hub in Ireland, and interact with other colleagues around Europe to advance better integration of cancer research and policy.”
National Director of the HSE NCCP and national co-ordinator of the ECHoS project in Ireland, Professor Risteárd Ó Laoide said: “The National Cancer Control Programme is pleased to be involved in the Cancer Mission and the ECHoS project. This initiative is very much in keeping with Ireland’s National Cancer Strategy 2017-26, which has a particular focus on involving patients in their own cancer care and further developing the role of research to improve cancer services, as well as aligning with the principles of Sláintecare and the involvement of citizens in how we shape our health services.”
Cancer represents a global health challenge and significant burden for patients, families and societies. According to the European Cancer Information System, the incidence of cancer in Europe by 2040 is expected to increase by over 20% and mortality by over 30%. This means that if no further actions are taken, around 3.24 million people will be diagnosed, and 1.66 million people will die in Europe. In Ireland, the prediction of new cases per year in 2040 is close to 40,000 individuals (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), highlighting a pressing need for unified action.
Dr. Anabela Isidro, member of the Agency for Clinical Research and Biomedical Innovation in Portugal (AICIB) board, said: “The fight against cancer can no longer be an isolated endeavour. Currently, research, innovation and healthcare initiatives are largely siloed within specific communities and the engagement of citizens is either poor or non-existent. Supported by the European Beating Cancer Plan and the EU Mission on Cancer, cancer occupies a central place within the European political agenda. At the conclusion of the Conference on the Future of Europe, political leaders championed pan-European cooperation towards a Health in All Policies approach, and a data-informed, citizen-focused, research-driven agenda. The time to act is now.”
The recent COVID-19 emergency exposed fragilities in EU health systems, halting research, arresting clinical trials, and forcing limited resource allocation to tackle these emerging needs. It also highlighted the capacity of countries to create functional synergies in health, policy, and research, successfully impacting the future integration of health services.
The ECHoS kick-off meeting today will set the foundations for a strong and cohesive network of NCMHs among member states and associated countries aligned with the Mission on Cancer. ECHoS will break new frontiers, beyond established research and health systems, reaching from individual citizens to European institutions, civil society, social sector, academia, public and private sectors, improving the current landscape and setting a brighter future in cancer.