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Home » Bladder Cancer, Health

Bladder Cancer – The forgotten killer

Submitted by on 30 Sep 2016 – 17:03

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, bladder cancer is the 9th most common cancer. The EU has witnessed more cases than any other part of the world, with Belgium having the highest instances for any country. Although cases of bladder cancer have fallen significantly since the 1970s, it has a prevalence rate of 13.07% and over 52,000 lives are lost each year because of it. Patient groups, medical professionals, leading charities and other key stakeholders have expressed the need for policy makers to take further initiatives to ensure bladder cancer is no longer perceived as the forgotten cancer.

With that in mind, the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies, in partnership with the European Association of Urology, hosted the Bladder Cancer 2016 Roundtable that took place in Brussels on the 21st of June 2016. This Roundtable brought together Members of European Parliament, senior representatives from European Commission, leading urologists, oncologists, patients groups, representatives from non-governmental organisations and representatives from pharmaceutical and technology companies to improve preventative, screening, diagnostics and overall treatment of bladder cancer. Some of their major recommendations have been elaborated below.

Registration and data
Like many other diseases, bladder cancer data capture, storage and the effective use of it across member states needs to improve significantly across the EU. Population-based cancer registers were recommended as the most effective data capture tools, but the quality of data at the time of capture has to be consistent across the board. The EU needs to do more to ensure terms like ‘invasive’ are defined clearly so there is no room for various interpretations.

The true cost
The true cost of tackling bladder cancer needs to be determined not just by the number of deaths as a result of it, but also the number of patients who were successfully treated. The EU should also budget for preventative measures such as education, fast tracking new and cutting edge treatments and drugs, filling the skills gap in urology, implementing strict guidelines on high quality imaging and research and post-market studies. There is scope to reassess current funding models and adopt more result-oriented approaches. Joint action from member states is of utmost importance.

Improving screening
Unlike prostate and breast cancers, bladder cancer does not have an effective screening programme. In addition, screening should go beyond just the use of MRIs, as data from radiologists may only provide a one-dimensional view of the existence and severity of the cancer. Again, the EC should work with member states to develop and implement a consistent and effective screening initiative.

New technologies and treatments
This year’s meeting also discussed new technologies and drugs in the screening and treatment of bladder cancer. A number of drug companies were in phases two and three of drug development, who have so far had promising results. There is a conscious move from mono to combination therapies, improved minimally invasive and non-invasive treatments and a more complimentary, rather than competitive, approach towards new research between drug companies have been observed. Other developments include the use of biomarkers, improved imaging solutions, the future of robotic surgery and other significant changes in technology.

Other recommendations for policy makers
The following recommendations were made for key policy makers to take into account for the future:
- Collection of histology should be an EU – wide policy
- Registration should be harmonised, data collected should adhere to strict EU norms and there should be consensus on the nature of data that is to be collected
- Member states should agree on common terms on invasive and non-invasive measures
- Screening policy needs to be reassessed and should mirror initiatives that have been implemented in Breast and Prostate Cancers
- Policy makers should build consensus on clinical guidelines and a standard for quality cancer care
- Bladder cancer should have a multi-disciplinary approach in the detection and treatment aspects
- The EU needs to have a more ‘open door’ approach towards new treatments and technologies
- Access to existing information should be made simple and consistent
- The availability of grants and funding for research should be clear and access to them should be clearly earmarked by policy makers
- More effort needs to be made on the care and nursing aspects as bladder cancer patients need specialist treatment
- Bladder cancer is not high enough on the list of neglected diseases and more should be done to prioritise it
- Access to multi-disciplinary teams should be available to citizens of all countries
- New research should be funded to explore better diagnostic tools. There is over reliance on retrospective studies – more should be done to encourage new research
- Bladder cancer affects certain people who are exposed to specific environments and working conditions – more should be done to educate both, employers and employees
- Medical innovations should not be perceived as costs but enablers

For more information and for details about the next edition of the Bladder Cancer Roundtable, please visit www.bladdercancer.parlicentre.org or email information@parlicentre.org