Committed to Prostate Cancer: Tackling the unmet needs in EMEA
My name is Professor Axel Merseburger, and I am the Chairman of the Department of Urology, University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Lübeck. During the European Society of Clinical Oncology (ESMO) 2021 congress, I met with Dr Cathy Taylor, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Therapy Area Strategy at Janssen EMEA, to discuss prostate cancer, the challenges, and how congresses such as ESMO are helping to share scientific advancements in areas of unmet medical needs.
The Prostate Cancer Landscape
As chairman of a urology clinic in Germany, I am well aware of the scale of prostate cancer - the second most frequent cancer diagnosis worldwide. In Europe, it is the most common cancer among men, contributing to a fifth of all new male cancer cases diagnosed in 2020. Approximately 473,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, which represents a significant unmet need across the region.
During early stages, prostate cancer is often symptomless. However, as the disease progresses, signs can include difficulty urinating, back or pelvis pain, issues with erections and weight loss. Treatment options will depend upon the stage of cancer, but can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapy.
Challenges in Prostate Cancer
There are several key challenges we must overcome in prostate cancer to transform outcomes and maximise quality of life for patients, including disease awareness / early diagnosis and treating advanced disease and maintaining health related quality of life.
Disease Awareness and Early Diagnosis
Acting early in prostate cancer is vital for our patients. However, getting a diagnosis in the initial stages of the disease can be difficult due to the lack of symptoms.  But it is something we must aim for every time, as preventing or delaying the progression to advanced disease, where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, is absolutely critical.
The differences in survivorship between those who are treated with early cancer versus those with advanced disease is staggering. 5-year survival rates can drop from up to 100% down to 49%. So, how can we prevent this loss of years for prostate cancer patients and their loved ones?
Simply, we need to raise awareness of the risk factors and symptoms. Ensuring that men who fall into a higher risk category (either because they are over 50 years old, or of black ethnicity, or with a family history of prostate cancer) are aware of their risk of prostate cancer and of the common symptoms. This gives us the opportunity to diagnose quickly and treat early.
Unfortunately, some prostate cancer patients will progress to an advanced stage. A key challenge for these patients in particular, is that as their prostate cancer advances, their response to treatment can decline, resulting in poorer outcomes.
Tackling these challenges together
Despite these two crucial unmet needs having a significant burden upon prostate cancer patients and their loved ones, defining these hurdles will help drive development of beneficial solutions. As a medical community, we acknowledge that detecting the disease early and transforming the long-term outcomes for patients are challenges, but they are challenges we know we can overcome if we work collaboratively.
When I virtually met with Dr Cathy Taylor it represented a valuable opportunity to connect between medical and industry communities. It was interesting to hear her views on how congresses and research & development (R&D) then translate into real benefit for prostate cancer patients:
“How do you think congresses, with the R&D shared there, play a key role in addressing the unmet needs in prostate cancer care?”
[Dr Cathy Taylor]
“We know that change can only come through collaboration – whether that is between regions, disciplines or something close to my heart, even between the pharmaceutical industry and academia. ESMO is one such event which enables this cooperation. We are provided a platform to jointly share the most innovative and disruptive research for cancer, particularly those with greatest unmet needs, such as prostate cancer, to a global audience.
Moreover, congresses offer crucial opportunities for industry to directly engage with healthcare professionals and sometimes the patient community. This, in turn, guides the way for therapeutic options that better meet the needs of all stakeholders.
Strength is found in numbers, and we can continually benefit from hearing different voices, as well as bringing our 10 years of outstanding legacy in prostate cancer to the table at events such as these to ultimately enable new normalities for patients.”
“What do you think is being done by the medical and industry community to address the burden of prostate cancer and support patients?”
[Dr Cathy Taylor]
“From a Janssen perspective, we care deeply for each person behind a prostate cancer diagnosis. That’s why we make it our goal to address their needs, transform their outcomes and improve quality of life. We have moved from the ‘one size fits all’ approach in prostate cancer in order to support patients specifically and in relation to where they sit in their individual disease pathway. We consider every single person diagnosed with prostate cancer as unique. By collaborating closely with the patient community, and systematically embedding the prostate cancer patient voice early into research and development, we can ensure we are supporting patients as best as we possibly can throughout their journey.”
“”Finally, what is your take home commitment to the prostate cancer patients we all strive to serve?””
[Dr Cathy Taylor]
”Ultimately, we at Janssen Oncology are committed to changing what a prostate cancer diagnosis means for patients. Our ambition is that one day, a cancer diagnosis will not define who people are.”
 Rawla, P. Epidemiology of Prostate Cancer. World J Oncol. 2019. 10(2):63–89.
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