ICT and artificial intelligence to fight cancer in the European Union

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, launched a public consultation to define the future strategy to fight cancer. Every year 3.5 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the EU. The latest program for cancer prevention and diagnosis dates back 30 years.

In the occasion of the World Cancer Day (4 February), Ursula von der Leyen announced the launch of a public consultation to shape the European Plan to Fight Cancer, a new strategy that should be published before the end of the year.

“For me, and for many of you, this is a personal matter. We all have our own personal stories of struggle, pain and resistance,” the EU President said at a conference in Brussels this week.

“I first heard the word cancer when I was a teenager. I was 13 when my little sister died of a sarcomatic grating. She was only 11 and there was nothing my family or doctors could do to save her,” she said. “My little sister’s death changed my life. I think it was also because of her death that I decided to study medicine and become a doctor.” “And it’s because of her, my mother and one of my brothers, that I’m so concerned about fighting cancer.”

Although according to the World Health Organization, 30-50% of all cancers can be prevented, total health spending in the EU on prevention is around 3%, with countries such as Malta, Greece and Slovakia where this value is less than 2%.

Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the priority of discussing prevention, perhaps setting targets for investment, the development of regional networks for the treatment of cancer by quality healthcare facilities and how to change the lifestyle of Europeans to make it healthier.

The President went on to say that the use of the latest technologies will play a crucial role in this work. “Technology can be a lifesaver for thousands of people. We know, for example, that the use of artificial intelligence can significantly improve the accuracy of early diagnosis. It can be a powerful tool to reduce false positives and negatives”.

But all this means that the EU must improve data sharing by creating a Common Health Data Space, an infrastructure where scientists and doctors can not only store clinical and research data, but also access data from other institutions.

“We need a health data infrastructure, as well as artificial intelligence technologies, to facilitate the link between research, diagnosis and treatment,” said Ursula von der Leyen.

Last year, the President mandated Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, to create a European health data space.

According to the commission, the initiative should “promote the exchange of health data and support research on new preventive strategies, treatments, drugs, medical devices and results”.

More information on the new consultation, which will last 12 weeks, is available here.

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