The Anticancer Fund connects with decision-makers
The Anticancer Fund works with key policymakers in the areas of research, treatments and cancer care. We contribute to the development of policy frameworks and regulations in order to increase benefits for cancer patients and the society as a whole.
Why do we engage in policy making?
The Anticancer Fund supports the objective of increasing survival rates and improving quality of life of cancer patients by providing access to the best possible treatments for all. Studies have shown that the current European system for clinical research, approval and market access of new cancer medicines is failing to achieve this goal.
To ensure that the best treatment reaches the patient, we help decision-makers to rethink the approval system for repurposed drugs (1) and the funding options for independent clinical research (2).
- Repurposed drugs are existing drugs that are investigated for new therapeutic purposes. We encourage authorities to approve repurposed drugs with proven anticancer properties for cancer indications, so that they are accessible for cancer patients.
- Independent clinical research is promoted by scientific organisations, academic or non-profit, and is funded by public money or by philanthropy. This kind of research is usually not financed by the pharmaceutical companies. We alert policymakers that more public funding is necessary for this non-commercial research, so that treatments can be developed for health priorities where there is little or no financial interest, such as rare cancers.
We focus on Europe
The Anticancer Fund’s advocacy contacts are mainly focused on Europe because the regulatory pathways for life threatening diseases, like cancer, are structured and decided on European level. We believe we can achieve the greatest impact by engaging with decision-makers of the European Union.
The European Commission
The European Commission (EC) is the executive branch of the European Union, responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU.
The Commission operates as a cabinet government, with 27 members of the Commission informally known as "commissioners". There is one member per member state, under the presidency of Ursula Von der Leyen (picture).
The European Parliament
The European Parliament (EP) is the legislative branch of the European Union. It is directly-elected and made up of the members of European Parliament (MEP’s), representing all EU countries.
The European Council
The European Council, under the presidency of Charles Michel (picture) defines the European Union’s overall political direction and priorities. It includes the heads of government or state of the EU member states and the President of the European Commission.
The plans of the European Commission to tackle cancer
- The European Beating Cancer Plan
The European Commission kicked off a European Beating Cancer Plan on the 3th of February 2021 with specific goals to achieve in strategic areas: control and prevention, diagnosis and screening, treatment, quality of life of survivors and caregivers. The project, with a budget of 4 billion euro, is coordinated by the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides.
The European Commission asked for input on this initiative. Read our feedback here.
- The European Cancer Mission
The European Commission has also launched a Europe Cancer Mission under the umbrella of Horizon Europe. Cancer is one of the five missions of Horizon Europe, and this project is focused on the future of research and innovation. A Cancer Mission Board is set out to carry out citizens and stakeholder engagement. The Europe Cancer Mission is coordinated by the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.
Read our recommendations to the Mission Board here.
The battle against cancer in the European Parliament
- The Special Committee on Cancer
The European Parliament established a Special Committee on Cancer, the BECA Committee, that contributes to the European Beating Cancer Plan of the European Commission and assists in monitoring its implementation. This specific project gathers members of all relevant committees of the European Parliament: Environment and Health, Research, Employment and Social Affairs. The Special Committee is building bridges between the different stakeholders involved in the fight against cancer and consults experts, including patients. The BECA Committee takes a holistic approach to defeat cancer, by looking beyond the public health perspective to strengthen actions at every stage of the disease. However, we urge BECA to put patients' needs first.
- The MEPs against cancer (MAC)
In 2005 some European members of Parliament founded the MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) Interest Group, a dedicated group for cancer policy at the European Parliament. The MAC group works together to improve cancer control and prevention in Europe and aims to increase awareness of the fight against cancer, in the belief that European cooperation adds value to member state actions.
We get things done
We want to give more cancer patients access to new treatments, including but not limited to validated repurposed drugs. These drugs are now often used in new indications beyond the officially approved indications, without regulatory approval. This is called off-label use, where “label” refers to the drug package insert.
Make off-label use on-label
Off-label use is generally legal, but doctors struggle to prescribe off-label because of liability issues. Moreover, medicines that are given off-label are not reimbursed for the patient by social security. Another problem is that the supply chain of these drugs is not assured, as the pharmaceutical producer only delivers for on-label use, or for use as indicated on the package insert.
In our research projects we evaluate drugs off-label. If the results of the trials are positive we want the cancer indication to be added to the label. But we encounter legal and regulatory barriers since a label extension is the sole responsibility of the manufacturer or market authorisation holder who might lack commercial incentives to do so. Adding a new indication to the label should be driven by patient benefit and approved by the European Medicines Agency, the European authority for drug approvals, on request of third parties.
Since 2017 the Anticancer Fund participated in STAMP meetings. STAMP is the EU-Commission Expert Group on Safe and Timely Access to Medicines for Patients and provides input to the Pharmaceutical Committee within the European Commission of Health.
In July 2019, the Pharmaceutical Commitee endorsed the Proposal of the STAMP-group for a framework to support not-for-profit organisations and academia in drug repurposing, and the associated pilot of the proposed framework with oversight from the Repurposing Observatory Group led by Spain. The Anticancer Fund is part of this group.
The New Pharmaceutical Strategy released by the European Commission in November 2020 contains a paragraph on drug repurposing and announces the launch of a call for pilot projects specifically for off-patent repurposed drugs.
Read the proposal for a framework here
In June 2020, we organised a webinar to raise awareness of the untapped potential of repurposed drugs in the treatment of cancer against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. EU policy makers, researchers, physicians and patients discussed whether the crisis is driving us towards a paradigm shift in the way cancer treatments are researched, developed and delivered.
Experts from all over the world of research and regulation listened to the views of the panelists. We counted more than 100 participants.
You can watch the webinar here below.
The Anticancer Fund has published a manifesto, emphasising on the potential of repurposing drugs in oncology: 'Increasing our options for cancer treatment in Europe. Doing more with less.' This was clearly a call to action to the European decision-makers.
• Unlock the potential of repurposed medicines.
• Provide new and sustainable cancer treatment options.
• Develop a parallel drug development pathway supported by public funding.
This manifesto is endorsed by different organisations, who believe just like us, that repurposing drugs can lead to promising and affordable new cancer treatments.
The document was first published in 2019, targeting the newly elected Members of European Parliament and future commissioners, and it has been subject to updates since then, as repurposing drugs is now regularly on the agenda of European decision-makers.
Read our Manifesto here.
Our current focus areas
Drug repurposingDrug repurposing, also known as drug repositioning, is a drug development strategy predicated on the reuse of existing...
Less common and rare cancersWe don’t just focus on the ‘big four’ of cancer – prostate, colon, breast and lung. We also investigate new treatment...
Combination therapiesIt is important to investigate the impacts of drugs beyond what they can achieve alone. Using them in combination...
Preventing tumour recurrenceFor cancer survivors, the fight isn’t always over. Many are concerned about the possibility of recurrence, and living...