In order to improve the standard of cancer care across Europe and around the globe, more funding needs to be channeled toward clinical research, according to oncologists surveyed by the European Society for Medical Oncology.
The standard of cancer care in Europe and around the world varies significantly. Survival times for cancer patients vary by up to 100% between countries in Europe and even more across other regions of the globe. The world’s oncologists are increasingly aware of this inequality and strive to combat it.
To identify which measures oncologists deem most important for improving cancer care, Dr. Kathrin Strasser-Weippl and Prof. Heinz Ludwig (Wilhelminen Hospital in Vienna, Austria) from ESMO invited oncologists attending the society’s 2004 congress in Vienna to complete a questionnaire on several possible measures.
Overall, 291 oncologists from 55 countries responded. In their analysis, the investigators found that the three topics receiving highest ranking by the respondents concerned research, and two of them clinical research. Appropriate funding for clinical research was considered more important than financial support of basic research.
When the questionnaires were analyzed by category, oncologists afforded the highest importance to increased funding for research. The two most highly rated single measures (converted to a scale from 0-100) were more funding for clinical research by governments (100) and more research by academic institutions (98.97). The next highest rating was assigned to interdisciplinary cooperation, followed by medical training and education. The creation of European guidelines for cancer treatment was considered an important requirement to improve cancer care.
“It was interesting to find out that changing the structure of care towards more specialization and centralization was rejected by Europeans and Non-Europeans alike,” Dr. Strasser-Weippl noted. “This is particularly surprising as it can be expected that many of the respondents to our survey are specialists themselves.” Another noteworthy finding is the low rating of supportive therapy, and the adamant rejection by oncologists of inclusion of alternative medicine into treatment plans as a factor for improving care.
“The results of this survey are particularly helpful for prioritizing future activities,” Prof. Ludwig said. “ESMO and political decision-makers can base their considerations on the measures needed to be taken to improve the quality of cancer care on the information obtained in the survey.”
To compare the views of oncologists with those of their patients, ESMO is currently conducting the same survey among cancer patients, so the views of physicians and patients can be contrasted.