The last three months have been a busy and exciting time for the ExPO-r-Net community, as we have been preparing the Paediatric Oncology application in response to the call for European Reference Networks (ERNs) launched by the European Commission on 16 March 2016.
The Paediatric Oncology ERN application is now submitted according to the deadline of 21 June 2016, and we eagerly await news from the assessment process. Approved ERNs are expected to be launched in early 2017.
ExPO-r-Net partners are delighted that the European Commission recognised paediatric oncology as a stand-alone priority area in the field of rare cancers, which enabled us to apply as a distinct ERN for childhood cancers.
Much work and dedication went into the application process, tirelessly led by ExPO-r-Net Coordinator and SIOPE Board Member Prof. Ruth Ladenstein, CCRI, and Barbara Brunmair, ExPO-r-Net Project Manager, CCRI.
Thus, CCRI partners attended the European Commission Information Day on the ERN call on 7 April 2016 in Brussels, which provided instrumental information for the application. Active dialogue took place with National Societies of Paediatric Haemato-Oncology (NaPHOS) and European Clinical Trial Groups (ECTGs) to streamline the application and draw a list of participating centres. (Centres can still join established ERNs at a later stage.)
Although the original intention of ExPO-r-Net was to concentrate on few rare paediatric cancer indications at first, the resulting PaedOnc ERN application has a broader scope and includes other types of childhood cancers such as leukaemia.
The PaedOnc ERN, if approved, is set to enable healthcare providers and patients to locate highly specialised cross-border healthcare (CBHC) and expert advice more easily. It also promises to foster twinning structures for identified centres in lower income European countries to reduce inequalities and provide a basis for negotiating compensation schemes for CBHC. For childhood cancer healthcare professionals already actively engaged in cross-border expertise-sharing, the PaedOnc ERN would formalise existing structures and practices and take highly specialised healthcare and research to the next level.
The ExPO-r-Net community looks forward to continue delivering on the project commitments while awaiting the results of the real-life ERN call – a truly promising opportunity for a brighter future for children and adolescents with cancers across Europe.