The SIOPE Society Day: A Quality Event

For a few days, Amsterdam has been the beating heart of childhood cancer specialists around Europe. First, selected representatives from the main European clinical trial groups and national paediatric oncology societies met on January 26th at the meeting of the SIOPE Clinical Research Council (CRC). This high-level meeting proved to be very insightful and participants had the opportunity to provide their feedback on the future directions where the European research community will go in the future. Coming from the experience of ENCCA, a 5-years’ project who brought together experts from all disease areas and with different types of professional background, CRC participants are today working on strengthening a network to perform studies tackling transversal aspects in the years to come, for the benefit of all patients and survivors. The following day, the first SIOPE Society Day took place, on the first day of the European CanCer Congress (January 27-30, 2017). The event theme was the role of the SIOPE Strategic Plan in the EU Agenda, and the event presented the latest innovations in paediatric haemato-oncology and address the issues at stake for the whole childhood cancer community. 7. Fig 2After the welcome and event introduction by the SIOPE President and chair M. Schrappe (Germany), the day kicked off with the SIOPE Education Session and, more specifically, with a session on the next generation of investigators in the field of childhood cancer. R. Marke (Netherlands) from the SIOP Young Investigators Network explained the career development and scientific priorities of junior researchers, while R. Schoot (Netherlands) added that this group is working on useful initiatives (e.g. mentorships) to encourage young investigators to learn from the experts in paediatric haemato-oncology. During this unique appointment, experts from multidisciplinary tumour boards and national societies will share their crucial research advances and lessons learnt in the management of childhood cancers. SIOPE Board Member S. Bielack (Germany) described the distinct features of teenagers and young adults (TYA or AYA), which result in different cancer outcomes as well as in problems related to the choice of the setting where adolescent patients should be treated (adult or paediatric oncology). As the two disciplines should collaborate for the sake of patients, SIOPE and ESMO joined their respective expertise in the framework of the SIOPE-ESMO AYA Working Group. The topic of adolescents and young adults with cancer was also covered by another speaker, A. Ferrari (Italy), who explained the even bigger challenge occurring when this age-group suffers from very rare cancers (incidence of less than 2 patients every million patients younger than 18 years’ old). Ferrari described a few experiences from different study groups specialised in VRT, which led to the creation of the pan-European ExPERT (European Cooperative Study Group for Pediatric Rare Tumours) collaboration. The educational "State of the Art" session on paediatric oncology drug development was led by G. Vassal (France). Vassal explained the most urgent needs in this field, namely to base the development of new childhood cancer treatments on the drug’s mechanism of action, to reduce the delays in the start of paediatric development, to introduce a different concept of drug prioritisation as well as a more effective investment scheme, based on incentives and rewards and, finally, the need to break the “18 years’ dogma” in paediatric clinical trials. He concluded by introducing the work done by the  SIOPE-ITCC-CDDF multi-stakeholder platform ‘ACCELERATE - Innovation for Children with Cancer’ to facilitate and coordinate every effort to address the existing bottlenecks in this field, and invited everyone to participate in the upcoming ACCELERATE Paediatric Oncology Conference, which will take place on March 2-3, 2017 in Brussels (BE). SIOPE President Elect P. Kearns (UK) led a session about childhood clinical trials in Europe, as well as their framework after the 2014 adoption of the Clinical Trial Regulation (CTR). As this piece of legislation revealed to be of a quite complex interpretation, the SIOPE Strategic Plan included a ‘Clinical Trial Facilitation platform’ to simplify the setup of clinical trials on paediatric cancer within the new Regulation, and to a) share experiences and assess the needs of the childhood cancer research community; b) agree on the pan-European implementation of the CTR; c) identify funding sources as well as policy updates which could have an impact on research; d) optimise the quality of clinical trials. R. Pieters (Netherlands) took the example of how paediatric haematology clinical trials addressing acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) managed to greatly improve the treatment results in young patients, by describing the laboratory and research approaches utilised so far. He focused on the monitoring of minimal residual disease (MRD), therapeutic drug monitoring, on the development of specific protocols for genetic subtypes, on targetable genetic lesions and on immunotherapies. Cancer immunotherapy in children was also picked up by another speaker, A. Biondi (Italy), who developed this important subject more in depth and used the successful case of immunotherapy applied to melanoma and ALL. 7. Fig 1The role of the SIOPE Strategic Plan in the EU Agenda was presented by different EU stakeholders from the European Commission (DG Research, DG Health and DG Connect). Very importantly, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety V. Andriukaitis made a special address at this event. “Children first!” was his motto, as he showed his great support to the SIOPE Strategic Plan and appreciation of our initiatives to reduce the burden of childhood cancer. He also stated that children with cancer are an important priority for the future EU research and policy measures. Implementing the SIOPE Strategy Plan is not easy to implement across European member states and, thus, there is a need for more funding. Other representatives from the European Commission’s agreed to be part of the SIOPE Society Day, and illustrated some of the available opportunities offered at the EU-level to address the Strategic Plan’s objectives. D. Trzaska from the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation explained that the EU has a long track-record of supporting the fight against cancer, using all the means and tools at its disposal: collaborative research, partnerships and coordination of national cancer research efforts. In this context, the EU Joint Action on Rare Cancers (including a specific work package on childhood cancers) was recently launched, as well as the European Reference Networks (ERN) between healthcare providers and centres of expertise – and one of those will focus on paediatric cancers. J. Ryan from DG Health explained that there are 4 priorities in health – chronic diseases, migrant health, antimicrobial resistance, and medical devices –  which are currently the most pressing problems for EU member states, but that new work plans will provide further opportunities for our field. The session ended with a speaker from a different field, T. Peetso from DG Connect, who gave the perspective of ICTs: these developments are increasingly relevant in the health sector and find several applications – from data sharing to app collecting physical body data – and that they could be very useful if linked to electronic health records where data could be analysed and used to improve future treatments. The meeting ended with 4 parallel interactive Panel Discussions focusing on research, public health and ICT. Participants were invited to join thematic groups, engage with EU Experts and ask targeted questions to the speakers in a personalised manner. In conclusion, expert speakers from multidisciplinary tumour boards, national paediatric haemato-oncology societies, and high-level EU policy makers contributed to this unique event, which established new and stronger collaborative ways to ensure that children and adolescents will receive the best possible cancer treatment and live full and meaningful lives after surviving this disease.