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‘Oncopolicy’ is a neologism created a few years ago, to describe a planned and sustained interaction with policy-makers and other stakeholders at the national and EU level, aiming to anticipate and proactively shape EU health and research policies.

Why is it necessary for surgical oncologists to focus on international policies (and politics), while they could concentrate their efforts in developing more and better treatment strategies for our patients? Working at the “macro” level is also essential to have an impact on the daily lives of healthcare practitioners. Issues such as the existing inequalities in access to quality care across Europe can be only addressed by providing substantial and convincing arguments for policy-makers. Explaining and making them understand evidence-based arguments – for instance that the differences between mediocre and high-level care can represent huge differences in mortality outcomes –leads to an obligation to act.

Together with ECCO (the EuropeanCanCer Organisation) and other cancer-related European societies, ESSO plays an important role in the development of European cancer health and research policies to promote the interest of cancer patients. The position of our Society emphasises the need to guarantee the safety and quality of cancer surgery, and to combine specialised cancer surgery with other treatment modalities to ensure the best possible patient outcomes.

Essential Requirements for Quality Cancer Care

ESSO experts took part in the ECCO project “essential requirements for quality cancer care (ERQCC)” as concerns soft tissue sarcoma and colorectal cancers (CRC). This project aims to provide explanations of organisation and actions that are necessary to give high-quality care to patients who have a specific tumour type, in this case CRC as the second most common cause of cancer death in Europe.

In cooperation with European experts from all disciplines involved in cancer care, ESSO was represented by Professor Geerard Beets – who led the development of this reference document on CRC, together with Professor Sebag-Montefiore from ESTRO – and Sylvie Bonvalot, who represented ESSO in the soft-tissue sarcoma taskforce. Stressing the central role of surgeons in the multidisciplinary management of CRC, the document was recently submitted for publication in a scientific journal.

EU cross-multidisciplinary training in oncology

Thanks to the invaluable oncopolicy efforts of Professor Niall O’ Higgins, a proposal for a cross-multidisciplinary training in oncology at the EU level was unanimously approved and recommended by the European Commission Expert Committee on Cancer Control.

It is hoped that this recommendation can be officially endorsed in the months ahead by as many stakeholders as possible, and that recommendations in this direction can be implemented by the oncology training organisations in each member state of the EU. The proposal of this international collaborative training arrangement in no way undermines the excellent global core curriculum developed by ESSO and its American counterpart, the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO), nor the other training curricula in Europe.

Still a long way to go to achieve multidisciplinarity for the benefit of patients

“Still a long way to go to achieve multidisciplinarity for the benefit of patients” the title of the ESSO response letter to the ESMO position paper "The current and future role of the medical oncologist in the professional care for cancer patients", both published on Annals of Oncology. This letter was produced at the initiative of a working group involving 20 oncology and related societies including ESSO, set up to comment from a multidisciplinary perspective on the ESMO position paper, which affirmed in some parts the predominance of medical oncology among the other disciplines involved in cancer care.

Working Group experts demonstrated that there is no predominance of a cancer specialty over another and that a more transparent definition of individual professional roles would better support patients and facilitate progress in cancer care. Read the letter here.

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