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World Cancer Day 2021

World Cancer Day 2021

Cancer, a common disease that has a big impact on your life. The disease affects body and mind, but also your work, income and functioning in daily life. In Belgium, in 2018, about 70,000 people have been diagnosed with cancer.1 A lot awaits you and your loved ones at the moment of diagnosis and during a treatment process. Yet not everyone knows how to find the right information and support. In times of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are avoiding care more often than usual. Enough reasons to raise awareness around World Cancer Day – on the 4th of February - about starting the conversation with your healthcare provider, your family, friends and fellow patients. Especially now connecting and supporting each other has only become more important.

At Janssen, we are committed to make this disease a treatable one and provide patients with cancer the medication, information, resources and strength to cope with this disease. In fact, we want to make cancer a manageable and most importantly, curable disease. We are not alone. Healthcare professionals, patient organizations and researchers within and outside of Janssen are involved on a daily basis. Fortunately, the patient himself is playing an increasingly important role. There is an increasing focus on shared decision-making and on the impact of the disease. Not only do we see more guidance in reintegration of work, also the patient’s voice is included in research into new medicines.

February 4th is World Cancer Day. As part of this day, we asked a number of stakeholders about their personal concerns when it comes to timely cancer detection and treatment, developing new treatments and providing support.

Ingrid Dekeyser - AZ Groeninge

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital care for people with cancer continues. This also happens in the team of Ingrid Dekeyser, who is a hospital pharmacist at AZ Groeninge in Kortrijk. Once the treatment plan is determined by the patient and the physician, the patient arrives at the hospital pharmacy service. “We explain the treatment and the corresponding medication, such as the intake, mechanism of action and the possible side effects. In addition, we also provide them with information leaflets”, Ingrid explains. In a recently established work format, Ingrid and her team keep close contact with patients during the treatment process. “Patients can contact us in an accessible manner about their medication, any side effects or difficulties they might be experiencing. In addition, on a regular basis, patients answer a brief questionnaire about their well-being”. In doing so, Ingrid collects useful information about how a patient experiences and applies the treatment. “We can centralize this information and exchange it with other doctors within the hospital. So we prevent colleagues from working in silos”. Nowadays, contact can also take place via digital channels, but Ingrid emphasizes that patients do not have to postpone their visit or contact. “We are there for them to support them in a difficult time, also in these challenging times of COVID-19”, she concludes.

“People appreciate accessibility and being listened to. Due to the limited time of a consultation, patients can say things that they might not always be able to say to the doctor.”

Ingrid Dekeyser

Hospital pharmacist AZ Groeninge

Magali Mertens - Travail et Cancer

Before, during and after a cancer diagnosis, several things can impact a patient’s life. Think about keeping or finding a job, social contacts and sometimes meaning in life. Magali Mertens, founder of Travail et Cancer, is an experience expert. She supports patients with cancer with coaching and reintegration tools. “We focus on the person’s potential, not on his or her weaknesses”, she says. Magali provides insights on the learnings the patients experienced during their illness: better stress tolerance, more empathy and setting priorities. “All kinds of skills that come in handy in a job or when applying for a job. These insights as well as returning to work give people a big boost in resilience and self-confidence. “As a non-profit organization, we are committed to this every day”, she says. Magali is convinced that the hard experience of illness can be turned into something positive.

“When I ask people to list 3 skills they learned during their illness, they sometimes gave me 15! And then people become aware of how much they’ve grown.”

Magali Mertens

Travail et Cancer

Our Janssen Researchers

Many of our colleagues are committed to discovering and testing new treatments every day. The impact of cancer on patients is an important driver for them. We also incorporate patient insights into various stages of our research.

Thomas Nys works as a researcher in the laboratory on the earliest stages of cancer treatment development, which we call early discovery. Educated as a biologist, he is concerned with finding a weak spot in a tumor cell and then looking for a drug that can attack the tumor at this weak spot. “Often we work at least five years ahead. What we do today still has a long way to go before it gets to a patient”, he says. Yet, even at that stage, patient involvement shimmers through. “As a researcher, you want to help the patient as efficiently as possible, by developing an effective treatment for patients with as few side effects as possible. At this stage of the research, a lot is still uncertain; only a few of the many possible therapies that are discovered reach the patient”. Still, Thomas is hopeful.

“I see a positive evolution in therapies coming to the market, now and in the future. I hope this will make cancer a treatable disease. That is our commitment on a daily basis.”

Thomas Nys

Associate scientist early discovery Benelux

Maartje Mangelaars contributes to clinical research for cancer. With her colleagues within Janssen, she approaches clinical research from the patient’s point of view, taking into account their experiences and what it means to them to participate in a clinical trial. She wants to ensure that the patient feels supported and valued. “For many patients, clinical research is an unknown area, but it plays a crucial role in the development of new cancer treatments”, she says. Patients and families need information about all possible options. “In collaboration with doctors and patients, we want to make sure that the patient experiences the participation in a clinical trial the best possible way. In this case, we try to understand what information is useful for the decision-making process to participate or not”. Maartje and her team support patients in this process, by giving them a voice in the design and conduct of the clinical trial before a study is conducted. By involving the patient, there is a better understanding of the patient’s needs. These insights allow the patient to receive understandable information and a more pleasant experience during the clinical trial. “The patient has the opportunity to ask specific questions about clinical trials and, together with his or her practitioner, make a considered decision about possible participation. Of course, the practitioners play an important role in this process”. Janssen systematically integrates patient insights into the design and implementation of clinical studies. Maartje is also enthusiastic about the contribution made by patient associations, as they are often open to providing explanations about clinical trials and support patients preparing for it. They are also more than willing to give their input on the design of the study. Information and education about the various options for the patient is, according to Maartje, an important part of the process that someone with cancer goes through.

“The physician plays a crucial role in supporting the patient’s decision-making process about different treatments. Clinical research is among the options and education in this area for people with cancer is essential.”

Maartje Mangelaars

Patient engagement program manager Oncology

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EM-51605 - 18-jan-2021