A new initiative involving several Member states as well as key healthcare actors was kicked-off on 24th November in Brussels, the seat of the European Union, under the title CAN.HEAL: Building the EU Cancer and Health Genomics platform.
CAN.HEAL aims to address the challenges put forward by Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides of tackling cancer, through integration and alignment of next-generation sequencing application in medical clinical care and public health interventions to the benefit of cancer patients, their relatives and the population at large.
The CAN.HEAL initiative recognises that many synergies between public Health and genomics are possible and necessary for the optimal benefit of patients and citizens.
Within the dynamic consortium, it brings together partners with extensive experience in public health and clinical cancer genomics who are involved in ongoing national and international initiatives.
The consortium is strongly convinced that better integration and alignment of clinical and population-based interventions at EU level is essential in fulfilling the ambitions set by the European Commission both in the Europe’s Beating Cancer plan as well as in the Mission on Cancer
The rapidly changing world of genomics in healthcare has opened up many new opportunities. Now it is time to grasp them.
The amount of data on genomes that could be shared promises to lead to almost-immeasurable advances in early diagnoses and the ability to give the right treatment to the right patient at the right time - an overriding goal of personalised medicine.
But there is also a clear need to provide value for money in cash-strapped healthcare systems that are struggling with ageing populations, dealing with a new clinical trial paradigm in the wake of the discovery of more-and-more rare diseases, and collapsing under the weight of a huge increase in co-morbidities.
However, evidence suggests that diagnoses are increasing, and improving, via the use of next-generation sequencing and other genetic breakthroughs, with costs coming down and growing confidence, arguably, as the public becomes more aware of the potential to improve health in this and following generations.
Addressing the meeting at the launch event Marc Van den Bulcke from Sciensano, who is the overall project coordinator for the initiative said: “CAN.HEAL has the overarching goal of acting as a flagship for member states and regional cooperation to bridge the gap between public health genomics and clinical diagnostics and treatment. From this, it will aim to align strategies and initiatives, identify key areas for cooperation, and release a European agenda in order to facilitate the delivery of diagnostic and public health genomics services to patients and citizens, where appropriate.”
Gennaro Giliberto, of Instituto Nazionale Tumori Regina Elena, Rome, Italy, told a busy room: “Healthcare actors as well as patients involved in this initiative will be able to understand how the EU is tackling the challenges, will have access to state of the art analyses from relevant stakeholders, and will share their views and update policies to ensure Access and Diagnostics and Treatment for All becomes a reality.
Iwona Lugowska, Maria Skłodowska Curie Memorial Cancer Centre, Warsaw, Poland said: “CAN.HEAL expected impact will be a strengthening of links between European member states and regions setting up or planning personalised medicine healthcare approaches.
Key strategic areas will look at challenges from the regulatory, scientific, economic, responsible research and innovation, and gender perspectives.”
Stakeholders in the Public Health Genomics arena, in each member state and Europe-wide, can come together under the umbrella of CAN.HEAL, exchange best practices and highlight key challenges that can be tackled.
The continuous dialogue will ensure that EU and Member State policymakers receive the best possible information and advice, thereby lowering barriers to the uptake of personalised medicine at the political level.
To tackle the challenges, new care models are needed and their implementation requires essential investments and related strategies.
The involvement of a broad range of public and private partners and investors is required, with a combination of bottom-up and top-down approaches to realise these necessary new care models.
When it comes to the implementation of these, two underlying principles are, as ever, collaboration and partnerships.
Said Denis Horgan, of the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine “When all of the concerned stakeholders, be they politicians, care authorities, care professionals, citizens and patients, service providers, technology providers and investors, are committed to working together, this should create a favourable environment for the design and deployment of new care models.”
Coordinating policies and innovation programmes in personalised medicine is an urgent need.
“They will also be able to contribute to shaping a common agenda, as well as identifying common investment areas,” Lars Bullinger from Charité added.
“CAN.HEAL will support this bridging between prevention and care in a new fashion by attempting to breach the existing silo’s and this is at the heart of what CAN.HEAL is all about,” Marc.Van Den Bulcke, CAN.HEAL Project Coordinator said.
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