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Honourable Members of Parliament, 

Cancer is a disease that affects us all in many ways, whether it is through   personal experience, family or friends, whether as a professional working in the field, we all understand the impact this disease has in many areas of our lives.

We all know that in order to be able to tackle the many challenges faced by patients, families, doctors, researchers and other professionals there needs to be multidisciplinarity, and cross-sectoral collaboration. We all understand the imperative need to work together, hand in hand with Member States, patient groups, civil society and industry. 

I have myself as many of you know personally experienced cancer, and know, as many other patients and their families, better than anyone else the need for close cooperation and collaboration, the need for teamwork. 

It is only  through team work that a cancer patient can feel safe and supported, that can receive optimal care , that can address the multiple of challenges faced at all stages of the cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment, from palliative care and throughout the years that follow as we now know the many challenges faced by survivors . 

From the very first steps of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, it was very clear to me that this would also take a whole team. A team working with dedication, focus and determination to bring about positive change to the lives of all cancer patients. 

This is very much a collaborative effort. I am delighted to be able to be with you today, and be part of the launching of this important Challenge Cancer Intergroup of the European Parliament. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The launch of the Intergroup comes at an opportune time. 

I am very well aware of the significant challenges that the COVID-19 crisis is posing to our health and social protection systems, including cancer prevention and care. Challenges that even during the peak of this unprecedented pandemic never escaped our attention.  

This pandemic is disrupting cancer treatment, affecting access to medicines, adding a new layer of risk for all patients, and creating more worry and stress for their families. While it is too soon to say what the long-term effects of COVID-19 on cancer care will be, we know that we can expect the collateral damage to be important.  

I want to assure you that cancer continues to be a top priority for the Commission – and for me personally.  For me changing the realities for cancer patients across the globe is a lifetime cause, this is personal. 

Throughout the crisis, we have maintained close contact and dialogue with stakeholders. 

We gathered views on how we could best address the impact of COVID-19 on cancer and ensure a sustainable cancer pathway. 

I had the opportunity to take part in a valuable webinar on the impact of the virus during the recent European Week against Cancer. It addressed the lack of protective equipment for frontline workers, shortages of healthcare staff and the need for sharing best practices in hospital setting. 

Important actions were highlighted – like developing guidelines on telemedicine and supporting medical staff in dealing with the backlog of patient consultations. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerable points in our societies and in our health systems.  

But it has also encouraged us to be the best that we can be – unified, ambitious, determined and forward-looking. 

And the pandemic has shown the world that we needed to give more priority to health and health security. 

The Commission responded with a Recovery Plan, which includes as a cornerstone a new, ambitious EU4Health Programme.

Thanks to the new EU4Health Programme, we will have a substantial increase in financial resources to address public health, health security and cancer in particular. 

In practice, this means that Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan will have new means to support far-reaching national cancer control plans and ambitious actions on cancer prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, the Commission will adopt the Cancer Plan before the end of 2020. This is a flagship initiative – a key priority for me.  We will apply a health in all policies approach, involving all relevant services and policies of the Commission as a whole.

We will also ensure synergies with other Commission initiatives, such as the new pharmaceutical strategy, the Farm to Fork Strategy and Zero Pollution Strategy, and the European Health Data Space.

There are strong and vital links with the EU Cancer Mission and I am delighted that Professor Ricciardi will also join today’s launch. 

I am also in close contact with my colleague Commissioner Gabriel to ensure that we reap all the benefits of the EU Cancer mission. This will ensure a smooth and effective interaction between research goals and policy objectives. It will ensure that the Cancer Mission Board’s recommendations contribute effectively to the Cancer Plan.

Over the last few months, we have been consulting with a wide range of key stakeholders. 

We have received over 2,000 contributions to the roadmap and public consultation. 

In addition, targeted stakeholder workshops are being organised on topics where we need more input. 

We are also preparing an in-depth analysis of the consultations and workshops. I will be happy to share it with you by the end of September.

Going forward, consultations with Member States are planned via virtual meetings of the Steering Group on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Further discussions are being explored with the German Presidency. 

However, the voice of the European Parliament in these discussions is key – and the Intergroup represents a strong, collective and unified voice. 

I look forward to collaborating with you as well as with the members of the Special Committee on Cancer. 

Together we will step up actions on health promotion, cancer prevention and care. 

Together, we will tackle the unacceptable inequalities in Europe in access to diagnosis, medicines and treatments. 

Because the dignity and right of cancer patients to receive the best treatment and care at all stages of this journey are not negotiable.  

Together, we will strive for more. 

Thank you for your attention and for the invitation to address this important launch, I look forward to an insightful and informative discussion.