IRE Regina Elena Cancer Institute: European Parliament and Physicians Agree On Urgent Need to Improve Access to Screening and Treatment of Breast Cancer Across Europe

2004-01-24 13:03:12
Saturday 13:04:47
January 24 2004

IRE Regina Elena Cancer Institute: European Parliament and Physicians Agree On Urgent Need to Improve Access to Screening and Treatment of Breast Cancer Across Europe

- 25,000 More Lives Could Be Saved and 90% of Women with Breast Cancer Could Potentially Be Cured if Diagnosed and Treated Early Enough

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PR Newswire - ROME Politicians and physicians met at a unique symposium held under the auspices of the Istituto Nazionale Tumori Regina Elena, Rome, to discuss the way forward in realising goals to improve access to screening and treatment of breast cancer in Europe. Oncologists from around Europe attending the symposium heard that although improvements in breast cancer care have been observed in recent years, there is still a great deal more that can be achieved to ensure a better outcome for patients.

Over the last ten years, improvements seen in the screening and treatment of breast cancer have been primarily influenced by strengthening of patient advocacy, through breast cancer being a high political priority, by improved clinical practice and through research and development of new treatments. Despite this, 216,000 women in the European Union (EU) are diagnosed each year with breast cancer, and 79,000 women still die. With improved breast cancer screening it is thought that an additional 25,000 women could be saved.

At a press conference, Professor Francesco Cognetti, Scientific Director, Istituto Nazionale Tumori Regina Elena, Rome, meeting chairman explained, "This meeting is incredibly important because it brings together all those people involved in the decision making aspects of breast cancer, from early detection to treatment, ultimately for the good intent of the patient. We should not be complacent on what has been achieved, but should strive to realise even greater improvements. These can be realised by listening to patients' needs via the advocacy groups, by improving early detection through ensuring access to life-saving screening in compliance with the EU-guidelines, as well as through improving access to the best treatment available in our clinical practice, and maybe one day a cure for breast cancer through the emergence of new treatments via research programmes."

Earlier detection of cancer could save another 25,000 lives in Europe

Mrs Karin Jöns, Member European Parliament, Group of the Party of European Socialists, explained that breast cancer is a high priority of the European Parliament, and urged physicians to be proactive in demanding that all women in their country have access to improved breast screening programmes. Mrs Jöns has been instrumental in lobbying for a comprehensive EU breast cancer programme and in June 2003 a resolution of the EU Parliament was passed, which aims to achieve a 25% reduction in breast-cancer mortality by 2008, and a 5% reduction in disparity in survival rates between Member States, currently at 16%.

Mrs Jöns, comments, "I feel very strongly about this resolution as 90% of women with breast cancer could potentially be cured if diagnosed and treated early enough. The European Parliament is convinced that Europe will only achieve real progress in the treatment of breast cancer if there is a quicker and better exchange of experiences between the member states and if benchmarking and best practice is implemented on a European level."

She added, "High-quality screening is, however, no use if the subsequent treatment is inadequate or even wrong. That is why the European Parliament also insists on the establishment of multidisciplinary breast centres throughout the EU where medical teams work on a multidisciplinary basis and specialise solely in treating benign and malignant diseases of the breast. In Member States where such breast centres already exist, studies have shown that women have a better chance of being cured."

Taxol(r) (paclitaxel) makes a major impact on the treatment of cancer; one million patients have been treated to date

Dr Luca Gianni, Director, Division of Medical Oncology A, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan, Italy provided a physicians view point on the improvements seen in treatment, and a need for continued research to find new agents and improved ways of using current treatments. In echoing Mrs Jöns' comments, he urged physicians to offer the best possible treatment available once breast cancer has been diagnosed.

He explained that in the last ten years, the advent of the taxanes has been one of the major milestones in the development of chemotherapy, and used Taxol as an example of excellence in progress of treatment. Taxol marked its 10th anniversary in September last year, and it is estimated that 1 million patients have now received this treatment since it first gained a license in 1993 for relapsed advanced ovarian cancer. Since this time, Taxol has also been approved in the treatment of advanced breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

Dr Gianni noted, "The discovery and development of Taxol has had a significant impact on the lives of patients with cancer and is one of the newer generation of chemotherapies that has demonstrated in clinical trials high response rates in advanced disease. Aside from this remarkable achievement, in looking to improvements in the next 10 years, new administration schedules of Taxol and at earlier stages of the disease appear to offer considerable promise if we are to achieve even greater benefit from this drug."

On looking at how such improvements can be realised he added, "We already know from clinical trials that a simple change to the schedule of Taxol, such as weekly rather than the often prescribed 3-weekly schedule, we can potentially achieve greater benefits for our patients and even improve tolerability. In addition, the use of Taxol in early stages of breast cancer is already showing important merits. In clinical trials that I have been involved in, such as the ECTO study, we have seen that 52% of patients with tumours larger than 2cm had a complete clinical response and an additional 29% had a partial response. The high anti-tumour activity meant that there was a double chance of patients avoiding a mastectomy when treated with before surgery compared to patients treated after surgery. In addition, the use of chemotherapy before surgery allows for investigating the biological determinants of tumour response, opening the way to the possibility of tailoring treatments to ind!
ividual needs. These results cannot be ignored and we continue to explore how we can optimise the schedule of administration with the aim of building upon the improvements we have seen in the last ten years."

The views expressed in this press release are those of the opinion leaders quoted
per maggiori informazioni: Regina Elena Cancer Institute, Via Elio Chianesi, 53, 00144 Roma, Italy, Tel: +39 06 5266 5330, Fax: +39 06 5266 5523

Source by Redazione

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