Koen van Elst (Stichting Melanoom) on World Cancer Day


"World Cancer Day has long taken place on February 4. Personally, I think it is important to reflect on this: recognition of a global disease that claims more and more victims every year. Cancer occurs in all stages of life: awareness can contribute to early recognition and the removal of a taboo. In many cultures cancer is not made discussable and there is a kind of taboo, also in the Netherlands. This definitely does not help in improving the situation of those affected by the disease and their loved ones.

Public awareness of the impact of cancer can mean that society becomes more aware of its social costs. Costs such as lost income to the economy, parenting that goes awry because a parent dies with all the financial consequences that entails. On the other hand, of course, preventing cancer can alleviate the cost to society. This too should be a recurring theme on World Cancer Day."

Koen van Elst, chairman Melanoma Foundation
"In 2014, I was the first in the Netherlands to qualify for immunotherapy for stage 3 melanoma in an experimental study setting."
Koen van Elst, President of Stichting Melanoom

"Immunotherapy in particular has done a lot for melanoma patients, among others, in the last 10 to 15 years. Some people regain a positive outlook for the future as a result. On the one hand because the disease stays away more often thanks to these therapies, on the other hand because the disease is better controlled if it spreads. As a patient, I was able to experience this very closely. In 2014, I was the first in the Netherlands to qualify for immunotherapy for stage 3 melanoma in an experimental study setting.

Unfortunately, these developments also have a downside: how does society keep up with all these developments and how do we keep the cost for society under control? In other words: how do we ensure that everyone who needs these new therapies has access to them? It is not easy for many to stand up for themselves in this complex world: I am genuinely concerned about this. While I have full faith in science and the industry, sometimes I think more attention should be paid to the practical side. Think of the ignorance that prevails among many people about the topic of 'second opinions'. In my opinion, these practical matters are set too casually and too many people fall between two stools as a result."