Zoé4life at the center of an international campaign against childhood cancer.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, people often comfort parents by invoking progress made in cancer treatments.
The reality is that in Europe, curing cancer is making progress, except for children.
Recently,the European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis remarked: “It’s of my biggest concern that the development in childhood cancer drugs has not been as effective as in adult oncology”.
Pediatric cancer is a public health problem and the leading cause of death by disease in children in Europe.
Currently, 80% of children with cancer in Switzerland and Europe survive at least 5 years after diagnosis. But two-thirds of pediatric cancer survivors will have treatment-related side effects that will have a serious impact on their quality of life.
Unfortunately, some cancers are still very difficult to cure and for some, a cure is still impossible.
For these, treatments have barely changed in the last fifteen years. No access to innovation means no hope.
Despite all this, financial support for research in pediatric oncology remains very low, both by public funds and by pharmaceutical companies.
This is a reality and it is unacceptable.
Yet, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease of children: a child dies of this disease every week in Switzerland. In Europe, 35 000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year, and 6 000 XNUMX die from it.
Pediatric cancers are not a priority for drug companies who would not have a return on investment if they were to invest in them. The vast majority of chemotherapy drugs used in pediatrics are actually treatments developed for adults, dosed according to the weight and age of children. This way treating children is often not very effective in the case of some very aggressive cancers, and has serious consequences, sometimes causing disabilities for life.
Oncology is currently undergoing profound changes with more than a thousand drugs in development, new precision medicine treatments and immunotherapy which are very promising.
However, this significant progress for adults has translated into very little benefits for children, who lack access to innovative cancer treatments.
This is the reason Zoé4life is actively funding research programs for children with cancer so they can have access to innovation in secure pediatric clinical trials.
This is not enough: industrial investment in pediatric oncology is more than necessary to really scale up. However, the European Pediatric Medicines Regulation, as it is written today, allows pharmaceutical companies to develop anti-cancer drugs for adults without developing them for pediatrics, despite the fact that they could be effective for certain childhood cancers.
This constitutes considerable loss of opportunity for children with cancer.
In ten years, only two new drugs have been developed in pediatric oncology.
This is unacceptable.
In 2016, these shortcomings of the Regulation were denounced by the allianceUnite2Cure , of which Zoé4life is a founding member, with the support of thousands of people involved in the field of childhood cancer around the world. A resolution was passed by the European Parliament in December 2016 to improve the pediatric regulation. However, in it’s recently published Pediatric Assessment Report, the European Commission only recognizes the problem in pediatric oncology but does not propose concrete action until the next elections in 2019.
And yet it would be possible!
In the United States, the “RACE for Children Act” was voted by the Congress in August 2017 to require manufacturers to conduct clinical trials according to the mechanism of action of the drug, which will benefit children with cancer.
Why do not we do the same thing in Europe?
On the 4th of December 2017, Zoéelife and forty-two associations working in pediatric cancer in twenty European countries sent an 20171204_Open Letter_EN to the European Commissioner for Health, Vytenis Andriukaitis, to alert him to the urgency to act, concretely and together, for children with cancer. This shows that the mobilization of associations at European level is strengthening to move the lines.
We can not let European bureaucratic slowness delay research to the detriment of children.
It is important to work together to ensure that pediatric oncology research accelerates, so that children with cancer are better cared for, with better treatments, and so that all of them can be cured.
Zoé4life is very active in this domain and will continue to work on a national and international level so that children, our children, those of today and those of tomorrow will no longer be forgotten by research.
And it is thanks to your support that we will get there, all together!
The Zoé4life Committee