September 22, 2009 (Berlin, Germany) —The official launch of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences was announced here at the 15th Congress of the European CanCer Organization (ECCO) and the 34th European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Multidisciplinary Congress. The goal of this new organization is to create a stronger, more unified approach to cancer health and research policy.

The Academy will bring together experts with outstanding scientific and academic backgrounds from all cancer disciplines and provide knowledgeable and unbiased advice on matters of policy and priorities at the national, European, and global levels. During a press briefing, Alexander Eggermont, MD, president of ECCO, said that the new initiative was designed to "help keep the interests of cancer patients at the forefront of the policy agenda and avoid policy decisions that had a negative impact on the practice of oncology medicine."

"It will provide independent, authoritative, evidence-based advice," he said, "which is very different from a lot of the consulting that goes on now in the cancer society."

Dr. Eggermont explained that by keeping a close watch on policy developments that could affect cancer care and by being able to offer expert advice and consultation, potentially detrimental decisions can be avoided. As an example, he noted that it has been generally acknowledged that the Clinical Trials Directive has had a catastrophic effect on the independent evaluation and comparison of drugs by academic clinical researchers.

The amount of academic clinical research in oncology in Europe in all therapeutic categories was greatly reduced because of that directive, he explained.

A founding group of 114 Academy members has been set up; 30 experts were selected for their expertise and reputation, and they then voted for the other members. The first group of experts includes Nobel prize winners Harald zur Hausen, DSc MD, professor emeritus and recent chair and scientific director of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg; Sir Paul Nurse, PhD, director general of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, United Kingdom; Sir Richard Peto, FRS Hon FRCP, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom; and Umberto Veronesi, MD, director of the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy.

The founding group also includes members of the ECCO Board and Policy Committee, and Dr. Eggermont will take on the role as the first president of the Academy.

The Academy expects that questions and requests for information and advice will come from a wide number of venues, including patient organizations, healthcare professionals, policy-makers, and politicians.

Initially, the ECCO Policy Committee will flag issues in which the Academy can make use of its expertise, Dr. Eggermont explained. But as the organization evolves, it is hoped that the Academy will be able to interact directly with policymakers.

At the outset, the Academy will put its collective knowledge and experience together to prepare a strategy paper on how to boost cancer research in Europe; look at barriers to research and how these can be addressed; and propose priorities for oncopolicy, ideally by the end 2010.

It has become apparent that a European-wide structure is needed to optimize collaboration and research power and progress, according to Dr. Eggermont, and the launch at the ECCO/ESMO Congress is only the beginning of this process.

"We are optimistic that this new initiative will have a positive effect on all those associated with cancer, be they patients, doctors, scientists, or carers, and we look forward to the time when cancer takes its rightful place on the policy agenda," he said