International Childhood Cancer Day : Strenghtening the fight and supporting better young survivors

Every year, 35,000 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer in Europe, including 2,500 in France. Despite a 5-year survival rate of nearly 80%, more than two-thirds of young “survivors” suffer from side-effects and psychosocial problems. Upon the International Childhood Cancer Day on February 15, Unicancer is joining forces with the main players in the field of oncology to strengthen the fight against childhood and teenagers’ cancer and to contribute to better support for young cancer survivors, both at the National and European levels, particularly within the framework of the EU Beating Cancer Plan.

Pediatric cancers are the leading cause of death by disease of children over one year of age in France and Europe. With more than 100 different types of cancer, these cancers are considered rare diseases, requiring specific research efforts, special care protocols and adapted management.

A positive first assessment of the French Ten-Year Cancer Control Strategy

One year after the adoption of the Ten-Year Cancer Control Strategy by the French National Cancer Institute (INCa), to which Unicancer had contributed, the first Report to the President of the Republic demonstrates reinforced support for pediatric oncology research. France’s strong ambitions are reflected in all disciplines and in all areas of pediatric oncology, notably through:

  • The funding of 7 basic and translational research projects through the renewal of the “High Risk High Gain” call for projects, which supports bold and innovative approaches;
  • Increased efforts to optimize treatments while limiting the side-effects, in order to preserve the quality of life of young patients cured of cancer;
  • The development of accommodation facilities close to the care centers to facilitate the support of young patients by their relatives.

Towards a better understanding of pediatric cancers

Better understanding cancers that children and adolescents can suffer from remains the common fight of French and International community of pediatric oncology. This is the reason why Unicancer is collaborating with Imagine for Margo, one of the French associations supporting the fight against children’s cancers created in 2011, which carries out awareness and fundraising actions in favor of research and a better understanding and quality of care for young patients. In September 2022, its president participated in the launch of the European project UNCAN (UNderstand CANcer).

The objective of UNCAN, which will result in an action plan by the end of the year, is to enhance collaboration between Member States in data analysis in order to guide improvements in cancer prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, including treatment-related side effects. This innovative approach will be particularly well suited to rare cancers such as pediatric cancers. As co-leader of a working group within this project, Imagine for Margo will ensure that the expectations and priorities of young patients are taken into account, alongside SIOPE (the European Society of Pediatric Oncology) and CCI Europe (Childhood Cancer International Europe, the pan-European organization of parents and survivors of childhood cancers). Coordinated by Inserm, this initiative is part of the two main European cancer programs, the EU Beating Cancer Plan and the Horizon Europe Cancer Mission.

The EU Beating Cancer Plan’s first achievements

Launched in 2021, the EU Beating Cancer Plan is one of the cornerstones of the EU health policy led by the President of the European Commission. One of the ten flagship initiatives is dedicated to children with cancer. Measures include fast and optimal access to screening, diagnosis, treatment and care, as well as the creation of a European network of young cancer survivors, including the launch of a smartcard summarizing their medical records.

The fight against pediatric cancers at the European level also involves more structural initiatives such as the European Joint Action on Networks of Expertise (JANE). Since it was launched in October 2022, Unicancer is being highly involved with European partners in the creation of 7 European networks of expertise in cancer.

In particular, Unicancer is contributing to discussions concerning the creation of a network of expertise dedicated to cancer adolescents and young adults with cancer by participating in a working group led by INT in Milan (National Tumor Institute). Three French experts from two Cancer Centers of the Unicancer network are actively contributing to this work: Dr. Daniel Orbach, Head of the Clinical Department of Pediatrics-Adolescents-Young Adults at the Institut Curie, Dr. Valérie Laurence, Head of the Clinical Department of Pediatrics-Adolescents-Young Adults at the Institut Curie and Vice President of GO AJA,, and Dr. Perrine Marec-Bérard, Coordinator of the Pediatric Oncology Department at the Léon Bérard Center in Lyon and President of GO AJA.

« This ambitious project should allow to harmonize the organization of care for adolescents and young adults with cancer and thus offer all these young patients better equal access to care, quality of care and treatment, regardless of where they live in Europe. It builds on decades of collaboration between pediatric, AYA and adult oncology teams. »

Dr. Daniel Orbach

Another network of expertise developed by the European JANE Joint Action dedicated to survivorship will be of interest for pediatric cancers. This network will have to take into account aspects related to the follow-up of the disease, medical side-effects of treatments, psychological distress and social consequences after cancer.

Over the past twelve months, strong initiatives have given life to French and European political strategies aimed at reinforcing the fight against childhood and adolescent cancers. By contributing both to advances in research and to the creation of tomorrow’s European networks of oncology expertise, for the benefit of young patients and young survivors of the disease, Unicancer is more committed than ever to the fight against pediatric cancers.

SourcesTen-Year Cancer Control StrategyReport to the President of the Republic; Imagine for Margo ; SIOP Europe Strategic Plan Update (2021-2026) ; EU Beating Cancer Plan.