Providing Patients with Prostate Cancer and Blood Cancer More Time
September is Prostate Cancer and Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and while these diseases may not seem to have much in common, in fact they share inseparable characteristics. Despite significant treatment innovations in recent years, many patients still struggle with the diseases and too many lives are lost.
A patient who is 65 or 70 years of age and diagnosed for the first time with metastatic castration-sensitive prostate cancer can generally expect a median survival of six years. When you consider that a 70-year-old will typically have a life expectancy of another 15 years, those six years amount to 40% of a patient’s potential remaining life expectancy. The picture is similar for many blood cancers, with a limited five-year survival for some diseases, such as relapsed multiple myeloma and aggressive lymphomas, such as mantle cell lymphoma or acute leukemias.
At Janssen, we believe through a deep understanding of disease biology, we can harness the right types of innovative therapeutic approaches to address patients’ needs. This approach is foundational to our work in prostate cancer and blood cancer.
Take prostate cancer, for example. When we developed medicines to treat patients with newly diagnosed metastatic castration-sensitive prostate cancer, one urologist remarked to me, "Mark, we haven't changed the standard of care in this setting in 75 years."
But Janssen has been able to change the standard of care because we committed to understanding the biology of prostate cancer early on, which guided our development efforts and led to new therapies for patients. As a result, we’ve been able to offer patients more time – improving survival in both the metastatic castration-sensitive and the non-metastatic castration-sensitive settings.
We’re also working to intervene earlier in localized prostate cancer for patients with high-risk disease, where we believe optimizing treatment could potentially improve outcomes. If we can improve the effectiveness of local treatment, we may prevent patients with prostate cancer from advancing to metastatic disease. And we’re pushing forward with a number of approaches, including bispecific antibodies that can treat prostate cancer by binding to an antigen on the cell surface while also redirecting T-cells.
In hematologic malignancies, we have led the development of first-in-class medicines, including the development of a proteasome inhibitor that has improved outcomes for patients with multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma. We were able to co-develop and bring forward a therapy that has improved the standard of care for patients with B-cell malignancies. Today, a 70-year-old patient who is newly diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia can take a treatment regimen that has been shown to significantly improve overall survival. Our deep understanding of blood cancer, combined with our focus on advancing innovative new therapies, has provided patients hope and importantly, more time.
But we haven’t stopped there. We have advanced the first antibody therapy for patients with multiple myeloma and we are progressing a novel CAR-T therapy in the same disease, along with multiple bispecific antibodies that are progressing in the clinic.
I recall a patient with a hematologic malignancy who had received one of our medicines more than five years ago telling me about her two grandchildren – ages 3 and 4. At the time she had run out of treatment options. Hearing her positive experience and the joy she is experiencing with her family today truly brings hope for patients and the critical work that we do at Janssen and across the industry. Knowing that we are providing patients the most precious gift of all, time, makes observances like Blood Cancer Awareness Month and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month personal to me.
This September, my colleagues and I share our gratitude to patients and caregivers touched by prostate cancer or blood cancer. We will never stop working, innovating and advancing science in our commitment to eliminate cancer.