French treatment system for cancer

Personalized medicine is the future of oncology. The French know it very well, and the organization of this therapeutic area in their country is considered as a model. What is it about and which solutions are worth introducing in other countries ?

The French treatment system for cancer patients is one of the best in Europe. What decided about this success?

First of all, the fact that a serious political declaration regarding oncology treatment was made in France. It is implemented as a part of “Cancer Plan”, which is updated every few years. One of the aims of the plan from 2009-2013 was to ensure equal access to standard and innovative therapies for all patients.

Secondly, they have the National Cancer Institute (Institut National du Cancer, INCa), which coordinates all aspects of the fight against cancer: from prevention, through care and  cancer research France to information.

Thirdly, they provide patients with access to modern, innovative therapies as soon as possible, and thus soon after they appear on the market.

What role does the family doctor play in this system? One of the goals of the last Cancer Plan was to strengthen the patient care.

In the past, oncological treatment was concentrated in cancer hospitals in France. Today, it is often ordained in outpatient settings. This opens up new opportunities for the family doctor to take care of the cancer patient. I mean, for example, monitoring the side effects of therapy, but also encouraging patients to screen. Because as much as 90 percent will do it if they receives information about it from theirs family doctor. INCa also publishes guidelines for family doctors regarding their role in cancer prevention and treatment. However, there is still a lot to do in this field.

What is the key to making personalized medicine function successfully in the health care system?

I think the political will is the most important thing. Doctors at the hospital level can do little alone. For this system to work well, it must be coordinated and supervised at the national level. Otherwise, what we observe in some countries, such as the United States, will happen. Personalized medicine solutions work great there, but only patients of large hospitals in large cities have access to them. I think that France is on the right track. You have great laboratories, experienced specialists and – as I heard during the conference – there is a political will to introduce solutions on national level.

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