Innovative concept for implementing WHO resolution to safeguard quality of cancer treatment

Cancer is a burden to those affected by it and a growing challenge to the political sector. In 2017, WHO therefore issued an international resolution to safeguard the quality of cancer treatment, and access to it, in every country in the world. The European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) has now put forward an innovative concept for implementing this resolution. Experts are calling for more investment in cancer prevention, early detection and infrastructure, guaranteed access to adequate cancer treatment and the creation and expansion of international networks in the areas of oncologic professionals and joint research.

The Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) of MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, represented by its Head, Christoph Zielinski, and by Gerald Prager, Head of the Colorectal Cancer Unit (CCC-CRC) and the precision medicine platform (Platform for Molecular Diagnostics and Treatment in Oncology) of the CCC, are taking a leading role in the development of this expert paper. The paper was recently published in ESMO Open.

Globally, around 8.8 million people a year die from cancer. This means that every year cancer claims more victims than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Experts estimate that the number of cancer cases will double by 2035.

In order to drive forward implementation of the WHO resolution, the ESMO, as the only international organization currently in this area of healthcare, has now put forward an implementation concept. This makes provision for a series of concrete measures and recommendations to national health authorities.

Four main themes
The concept addresses four main themes:

1)    The financial aspects of cancer diagnosis and treatment: for example, the authors recommend that countries invest in cancer prevention and early detection.

2)    Access to treatment from a geographic, financial and socio-cultural perspective. MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital's CCC is already implementing some aspects of this point via its "Community Oncology" program. By providing telemedicine offerings and consultancy services, this allows patients to be cared for close to their homes.

3)    The establishment and safeguarding of fundamental services, such as providing awareness programs, instruments for evaluating the therapeutic benefit of drugs and the introduction of cancer registers.

4)    Guaranteeing the highest possible quality of treatment: this primarily concerns personnel management, advanced training measures and joint international research initiatives.

Says Prager: "The Cancer Resolution provides a guideline for all countries, be they rich or poor, for what they can do, within the means available to them, to ensure that their populations receive the best possible care. This even applies to countries such as Austria. For example, people who live in geographically remote areas should not receive a lower standard of care than patients in urban centers."

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