ECMC Steering Committee 2019: what's the future of the network?

10 Mar 2019

In February we had the second meeting of the ECMC Steering Committee. This Committee is a key part of the governance for the network and is designed to ensure that the funders and the network are getting appropriate and timely input on the current activity of the adult and paediatric networks and to provide an independent steer on what the future should look like.

The Committee heard directly from both networks, with James Spicer and Darren Hargreaves presenting on progress and future plans for the paediatric network, and Ruth Plummer presenting progress on the strategy for the adult network.

The Committee were very impressed with the progress that the paediatric network has made. They recognised the value of the referral networks in directing the care of children with relapsed cancer, and they were strongly supportive of this continuing.

In the adult network, Ruth reported progress against the four strategic themes; molecular diagnostics, immunotherapy, liquid biopsy and combination therapy. The Committee were particularly supportive of exploring the power of liquid biopsies in the network, recognising the ethical, physiological and financial barriers in getting access to repeat solid biopsies.

The Committee confirmed that the networked approach in the UK was key, and that we should continue to explore models that focused more on co-operation than competition, as this would be the route to harnessing the collective capacity and expertise. In addition, the steer from the Committee was that we should seek to consolidate and build on current strengths in the network rather than address gaps in the portfolio.

The challenges with delivery in the network, in particular study set up, were thought to be rate limiting, and that every effort to address the underlying issues must be made. The Committee were clear that any future models for the network must include approaches to improve delivery.

We now face the exciting challenge of developing a proposal for the network for the next quinquennium that builds on existing strengths, prioritises and incentivises collaboration, and that drives improvement in delivery. Over the coming months, we will be working with the funders and the network to develop a view on what this might look like, so if you have any ideas, or examples of how this is working in other networks, then please let us know.