Teaming up with European paediatric organization to step up pressure for EU action

    Since 2006, just nine newly approved medicines for paediatric cancer versus over 150 in adults

    The European Union needs to step up its action to dedicate proper investment in research for essential treatments for children suffering from cancer. Labour MEP Miriam Dalli and the European Society for Paediatric Oncology (SIOPE) discussed how they can collaborate together to make sure that more emphasis is given to paediatric cancer.

    The European Society for Paediatric Oncology is the only pan-European organization representing all professionals working in the field of childhood cancers, with more than 1934 members across 36 European countries including Malta.

    In light of the pandemic, the European Commission presented a new health programme – the EU4Health – to strengthen health security and prepare for future health crises with a budget of €9.4 billion.

    The Maltese MEP was recently appointed as vice-chair of the MEPs Against Cancer and in her meeting with SIOPE, the development, accessibility and affordability of medicine, particularly for paediatric cancer patients was discussed in detail.

    SIOPE revealed the extent of lack of treatment development for children as one of the most pressing issues. Since 2006, there were only nine newly-approved treatments for paediatric cancer when compared to over 150 treatments for adult cancer patients.

    “We need to continue pushing for further investments in research and development in medicines and treatments for childhood cancer and rare diseases. At the same time we have to ensure equal access to childhood cancer care, irrespective of whether a child is living in one Member State or another,” Dr Dalli said.

    She added that adequate support was needed for families.

    In Malta, children most at risk of cancer are aged under five, whilst an average of 12 children aged below 16 are diagnosed with cancer every year. Adding patients under the age of 24 brings up the amount to 1% of cancers registered on the islands.

    During this legislature Miriam Dalli has been insisting with the European Commission to start addressing access to medicines, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently she has also presented amendments to a European Parliament report on how to address shortage of medicines. In her amendments, Miriam Dalli called on the European Commission to provide increased financial resources under Horizon Europe and other EU programmes to strengthen support for rare diseases through increased research, clinical trials, best practices sharing, and medication development. She is also proposing that clinical trials and medication pertaining to rare diseases should be made available to all citizens regardless of their Member State.