The Strength of Unity in Oncology

European Oncology Review, 2005:21-2

Since 1981, the Federation of European Cancer Societies (FECS) has been working to facilitate the representation of the different European organisations of all disciplines involved in cancer research, treatment and care. FECS exists to promote and co-ordinate collaboration between these societies and to promote the implementation of multidisciplinary treatment, in order to enhance access for cancer patients to quality treatment and care. FECS has always been active in the organisation of conferences and, more recently, has been very much involved in continuing medical education (CME) and political lobbying activities. In all, FECS now represents 18 European societies and more than 18,000 oncology professionals in Europe. The need for an organisation to facilitate interaction between others and to provide a focal point for dialogue with interested parties was established many years ago, and FECS was created to fulfill that need. The relevance of such an organisation is even more valid today as, on the one hand, the incidence of cancer grows and the population of Europe increases and grows proportionally older and, on the other hand, European Member States face important problems in the field of public health and healthcare structures. In the words of Professor John Smyth, President-Elect of FECS, “if the Federation of European Cancer Societies didn’t exist, then it would have to be established”. Over the last 24 years FECS has been working to achieve its objectives and it has been successful on a number of fronts; through its flagship conference (the European Cancer Conference (ECCO)) FECS has developed what is the largest multidisciplinary cancer conference in Europe has increased political awareness of European cancer issues, has successfully influenced a number of political files and has been central in the establishment of the Accreditation Council of Oncology in Europe (ACOE), which accredits CME events in oncology.
FECS is also committed to enhancing and fostering the science that underpins cancer treatment and care in Europe through the provision of platforms for scientific exchange, such as workshops, conferences and educational activities. The Flims Workshop on Methods in Clinical Cancer Research (organised jointly with American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)) has already trained more than 500 young oncologists in the essentials of clinical trials design and implementation. The FECSorganised European Breast Cancer Conferences (EBCC) are the main European forum for scientificexchange in the field of breast cancer research, treatment and care and FECS also organises elective training courses for medical students and provides online multidisciplinary case studies through its website. As part of FECS’s attempts to strengthen European oncology in general, and to reflect the growing status of the ECCO meetings, the 2007 ECCO 14 conference has been extended into a full week-long event. This will extend the traditional ECCO conference by including extra days for public education and media activities to draw much more public attention to what can be done in the area of cancer prevention.
With the changing shape of Europe there is a need for a change in the structures that represent the oncology community, and its organisations and disciplines, within Europe. To ensure that the expertise of Europe’s oncology specialists is taken into account in the European political arena, and is used to advise and guide policy decisions, a much more strengthened and cohesive approach is required. FECS has already had success in representing European oncology on a number of issues (on the Clinical Trials Directive, on the European Commission regulation on medicinal products for paediatric use, on recognition of medical oncology) and is now recognised as an authoritative interlocutor by the European Parliament and the European Commission, but this position needs to be developed and taken still further. FECS is continuing to build on the advances it has already made and it is optimistic that its strong position can be used to future benefit on a range of issues that impact on cancer research, treatment and care.