Cancer control in a time of crisis
During The Economist’s 8th Annual World Cancer Series congress in Brussels November last year, web editor Nicole Raleigh sat down to discuss the event and its themes with Greg Rossi, senior vice president, head of oncology Europe and Canada at AstraZeneca.
Having brought together a wide range of stakeholders critical to effective cancer care, so as to drive innovation, equity, and excellence in cancer control across Europe, the congress was only halfway through when we spoke, but there was certainly much to discuss.
Set against the backdrop of the implementation of the EU’s Beating Cancer Plan, as well as ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to Europe’s current security challenges and the immense refugee crisis: Rossi had been on the panel on European cancer control in a time of crisis, a highly interesting and important conversation, incorporating also the current situation in Ukraine.
During the interview, Rossi explains how the Economist Impact conference brings multi-stakeholders together – EU Parliamentary figures, patient advocacy groups, physicians – to look at the serial crises suffered the last few years and how they have affected cancer patients, and how partnerships can improve outcomes. After all, cancer is not a disease that is going away – those patients are yet present and will be present within the health system.
Touching upon telemedicine and learnings taken from the acute phase of the pandemic, Rossi discusses how systems can be far more flexible than was first thought. Supporting the resilience of health systems, and patient support of telemedicine, and at-home use of therapies, he also mentions the availability of apps for symptom management and toxicity assessment.
Longevity, sustainability, and the transferability of the themes of such a European congress to the UK situation are also touched upon – how decision-making and review issues are pretty universal, but how the present is a time of innovation, with huge strides in cancer biology and treatment, but no equitable outcomes. The themes that influence cancer outcomes, he says, are comparable between Europe and the UK: disadvantage means worse outcomes.
On the subject of lung cancer screening, Rossi notes the remarkable advances in metastatic and early-stage disease treatment over the past 25 years, and how it is clear how crucial screening is. But screening policy has to be turned into action, and that requires system and behavioural change.
As a company, AstraZeneca has been in oncology for a very long time, but over the last 10 years there has occurred an inflection point and revolution, with a portfolio of drugs and the evidence around those drugs what Rossi terms ‘extraordinary’.
Closing with Rossi’s takeaways from the event – as far as possible, being only halfway through – he mentions data portability, not just innovation, but the delivery of such in real time to real people.
You can listen to episode 74 of the pharmaphorum podcast in the player below, download the episode to your computer or find it and subscribe to the rest of the series in iTunes, Spotify, acast, Stitcher, and Podbean.
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