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European Commission Representation in Cyprus
News article31 January 2024Representation in Cyprus6 min read

Speech by Commissioner Kyriakides at the Europe's Beating Cancer Plan conference

Speech by Commissioner Kyriakides at the Europe's Beating Cancer Plan conference  

Participation of Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner, in the Europe’s beating Cancer Plan - Joining Forces Conference

Vice-President Jourova, dear Vera, Commissioner McGuinness, dear Mairead, Ministers, Honourable Members, dear MEP Loukas Fourlas, Dr Costa, Distinguished Speakers and Guests, Colleagues, Friends, dear members of the Sea of Change choir,

In December 2019, at the European Parliament, I gave my first speech as Commissioner on the Health aspects of my portfolio.

As you may have guessed, the speech was largely focused on cancer.

That day, I spoke of how the stars had “aligned magically” to make cancer a priority across the EU institutions.

They did so thanks to an unprecedented political momentum.

From the very outset, President von der Leyen gave Europe's Beating Cancer Plan her personal endorsement, and I thank her warmly for leading the way.

I thank my colleagues in the College of Commissioners for sharing this vision, all of Europe's Health Ministers for their steadfast support, and all the Members of the European Parliament.

I woud like to thank my expert and scientific advisor on the Cancer plan Dr Costa for his wise advice and dedication.

And I thank all stakeholder organisations for their tireless engagement.

As the years have flown by, with a pandemic in our path, the Cancer Plan has kept on soaring to new heights – this thanks to the shared vision and joint commitment of many of those in this room and countless persons across the EU, many of whom are following us today online.

A shared vision I personally witnessed when speaking to patients, families, doctors and nurses in the oncology centres I met in every single Member State that I visited.

When we jointly launched the work on Europe's Beating Cancer Plan in the European Parliament on World Cancer Day 2020, I said that for myself this was about turning the personal into the political, sharing my voice with that of many others to bring about change for those facing a cancer diagnosis every day.

Time had come for a Plan that aimed high and reached far.

Backed by funding of €4 billion, we have launched a record number of projects, actions and initiatives addressing each stage of this disease.

Thanks to this unprecedented action, stakeholders, healthcare professionals, patients and governments are today working closer together across the EU to improve prevention, detection, treatment and quality of life, with all actions based on the latest research and innovation.

Just today, to eradicate cervical cancers and other cancers caused by viruses, we presented in College a new Recommendation on vaccine preventable cancers for HPV and Hepatitis B – adding one more Flagship action to our prevention pillar.

After almost 20 years, we have new modern and science-based screening guidelines covering cancer types that together account for over half of all new cases diagnosed in the EU every year.

We have today a cancer training programme operating across borders and our young cancer patients are supporting each other through a Network of Youth Cancer Survivors.

We are progressing steadily to set up the first EU Network of Comprehensive Cancer Centres by 2025 for better access to high-quality care.

Last but not least, we have launched the first ever EU-US cooperation on cancer, linking Europe's Beating Cancer Plan with Moonshot.

What do these actions actually mean?

  • More than 450 stakeholders working together around common projects;
  • Almost €600 million in funding from EU4Health has been programmed to improve cancer care and treatment;
  • Training programmes will be expanded to 100 cancer centres in at least 15 Member States in the next year;
  • Over 200,000 cancer image series are available for healthcare professionals in the Cancer Image Europe Platform so they can develop more precise and faster diagnostics, treatments and care tools for patients.

And we still have a lot to do. 

We have many challenges and problems still to address, especially as regards the unacceptable inequalities we see in cancer care in the EU.

I've made it extremely clear since my first day in office as Commissioner every EU citizen should have access to the same level of care.

Thanks to the first EU Cancer Inequalities Registry, we are today publishing a report with updated figures on cancer trends, showing clearly that not everyone in the EU has the same chance to survive cancer.

Equity in health is simply not negotiable.

This is one of the foundational principles of the strong European Health Union we have been building over the past years. Our work under the Cancer Plan aims to make this a reality.


We are firmly determined to keep this momentum up, and this year will see us present measures on tackling exposure to ultraviolet radiation, including from sunbeds.

And to recognise the right to be forgotten across the EU, we will bring forward the first EU code of conduct on fair access for cancer survivors to financial services in the coming months in Brussels. 

This code is a shining example of how the Cancer Plan reaches beyond health.

We will bring forward a range of actions in other important areas as well, including for personalised cancer medicines, digital technologies, palliative care for children and health literacy.

What do all these projects and initiatives have in common?

The answer is simple: people.

People looking for answers, for a diagnosis, for a treatment plan, for a decent life after cancer.

Why are these projects and initiatives important?

Because of their far-reaching impact on people, on patients, on families and friends, on healthcare professionals.

I have experienced this impact first hand.

I have worked with children living with cancer and their families.

I know what being diagnosed with cancer feels like.

I know the fear that surrounds every biopsy, every check-up, every brush with a virus like COVID-19. 

I know the crushing loneliness that a cancer diagnosis can cause. Even when you are lucky enough to have support of friends and family.

I know the worry in the eyes of your family, your own worry, whether you will see your children grow.

That is why this has been such a personal journey for myself and for many others in this room today - friends, advocates who have travelled from so far just to be here.

The Cancer Plan has always been about putting people first.

That is why it is integral to the people-centred European Health Union this Commission is building.

And it is why we can be proud of what it has done for people across the EU.

The opening line of Europe's Beating Cancer Plan says, “Cancer affects us all”.

On World Cancer Day this Sunday, the slogan is Close the Care Gap. Far more unites us than divides us, whether we are young or old, irrespective of race, religion, gender, across the world, we need to close the gap - this is what this plan is about.

Actor Patrick Swayze lost his life to pancreatic cancer at the age of 57 in 2009.

He said, “together we can make a world where cancer no longer means living with fear, without hope or worse”.

And that is why we are all gathered here today.

In that first speech four years ago, I called on EU Member States, EU institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and patient advocates to join forces with us to turn the tide against cancer.

It is with immense pride – and emotion – that I stand before you today to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart for answering that call.

With you, we have made huge strides in turning that ambitious  blueprint into positive change that is making a difference to the lives of patients, their carers and their loved ones.

With you, we are bringing hope for a brighter future without cancer.

With you, I know that Europe's Beating Cancer Plan is in the safest of hands.


Publication date
31 January 2024 (Last updated on: 31 January 2024)
Representation in Cyprus