ONCE UPON A TIME - in the year 1998 to be exact, the European Society for Paediatric Oncology was born. Friends referred to it as SIOP Europe, or SIOPE for short. It was (and still is!) driven by a group of dedicated paediatric haemato-oncology professionals – in other words, specialists who diagnose and treat blood disorders and cancers in children, adolescents, and young adults, who felt a burning desire to make life-saving differences to this vulnerable population. They set forth on their mission, working relentlessly to defeat their common enemy: childhood cancer. Together, they sought ways to increase cure rates, improve survivors’ quality of life, and tackle inequalities across Europe… and their efforts did not go unnoticed.
In just under a decade, SIOPE established itself as an independent organisation and soon joined forces with key players in the field. They understood that a unified voice would carry further and would significantly increase their chances of defeating the evil forces of cancer. And they were right. These alliances marked the beginning of a long list of projects and partnerships, each aiming to address specific unmet needs of children and adolescents with cancer.
In 2007, it was clear that SIOPE was here to stay, but it needed a home of its own. The SIOPE office quickly became the home of many field experts and opened doors to accommodate the evolving needs of the community.
It did not take much time before the unified voice of the childhood cancer community reached political levels. By 2009, SIOPE was involved in the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer (EPAAC), a joint action of the European Union. The European Standards of Care for Children with Cancer soon emerged from this project, setting the scene for promoting the best possible care in paediatric oncology and addressing inequalities.
But SIOPE did not stop there.
Indeed, focusing on standards of care alone would not get the job done, so SIOPE also became involved in the European Network for Cancer Research (ENCCA): a network of excellence integrating all stakeholders to boost sustainable structures for clinical and translational research in childhood and adolescent cancers.
Through this project and the network of excellence, the Clinical Research Council was formed in 2011 to on the one hand, establish a ‘European Virtual Institute’ for clinical and translational research, and on the other hand, to represent National Societies and European Clinical Trial Groups (ECTGs) at the highest European political level.
Since then, SIOPE has been sinking its teeth into all areas related to childhood cancer.
SIOPE published its Strategic Plan in 2015 to clearly articulate community objectives and was updated in 2020 to ensure they remain relevant to the needs of children and adolescents with cancer. Then, in 2017, the European Reference Network on Paediatric Cancer (ERN PaedCan) officially kicked-off. Its aim is to facilitate European health care structures in their provision of highly specialised, accessible, and cost-effective cross-border health care to all childhood cancer patients. A couple of years later, SIOPE together with its valuable partner, CCI Europe, presented the 2019 European Manifesto for the childhood cancer community at the European Parliament, called: “Beating childhood cancer: Cure more and cure better – Towards zero deaths and zero late effects,” which quickly gained the support of many MEPs.
SIOPE stopped at nothing to vanquish childhood cancer and no challenge was too great to dissuade it from its quest.
When Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan was adopted by the European Commission in 2021, with a dedicated spotlight section on childhood cancer, SIOPE was overjoyed by the opportunity of putting paediatric oncology high on the policy agenda. After all, numerous SIOPE members and partners had expressed the need for this focus through multiple advocacy channels for many years. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the subsequent European Parliament Resolution on strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer are paving the way for another series of forward-looking EU projects and initiatives.
These achievements would not have been possible without the outstanding and continued effort of the SIOPE Board Members and the office team, who work hand-in-hand with other remarkable experts in the field. We are extremely grateful to each and every SIOPE member, whose invaluable contributions to childhood cancer make real differences every day.
25 years after its creation, SIOPE is still going strong. The society today counts more than 2500 members across 35 European countries and continues to lead the way to ensure the best possible care and outcomes for all children and adolescents with cancer in Europe.
The moral of this story is that devotion, determination, and hard-work pay off, so remember to always reach for the stars. Please join us in celebrating this extraordinary adventure by following us, sharing, liking and becoming part of the SIOPE story.
Together, let’s make it a HAPPILY EVER AFTER…