Why time is of the essence for blood cancer treatments
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn on September 3 2020.
Steve Jobs once said “the most precious resource we all have is time” and it’s a quote that has always struck a chord with me. After all, whether in our personal or professional life, each of us will at some point have wished there were more hours in our day.
September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and for blood cancer patients, this idea of wanting more time takes on a particular significance. On the most basic level, this is down to the fact that, with no cure yet available, people diagnosed with a disease like multiple myeloma know that one day it will most likely return. As a physician, I have seen and heard how physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting it can be for people to live with this uncertainty – and how it affects how they view the time they have.
But the impact of living with blood cancer goes beyond this: it also impacts how patients spend their time. The effects of blood cancers such as multiple myeloma include fatigue and difficulty sleeping. As a result, many patients need extra time to do everyday tasks like housework, or have trouble remaining active.
And then there is the time needed for treatment. Time-intensive treatments are a significant burden for people living with cancer, many of whom will have to visit the hospital every week. For those with blood cancer, though, this is magnified even further by the duration of these visits – according to the Lancet Haematology, the average hospital stay for blood cancer patients is 14 days, compared to eight days across all other types of cancer. All of this adds up to a simple but devastating conclusion: multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that steals time from people.
We also must acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the spectrum of cancer care. Now more than ever, there is a preference for the reorganisation of cancer services (tele-consultations, at-home delivery, treatment options etc,.) to limit the need for lengthy hospital stays wherever possible, to both minimise the risk of exposing cancer patients to SARS-CoV-2 infection and alleviate pressure on over-extended healthcare systems.
It’s for this reason that we at Janssen are so passionate about pursuing innovations that not only help extend blood cancer patients’ length of life but also create more time for them to actually live it, such as looking at how we can reduce the length of administering treatments from hours down to minutes – meaning patients can spend less time in hospitals and more time at home. These are the kinds of areas of exciting progress that truly inspire me, because they go beyond how we can improve patient outcomes, although this of course remains at the foundation of what we do, to how we can address unmet needs to improve the quality of their lives as well. We are committed to working on innovative treatments, therapies and resources that help people with blood cancers secure victories over cancer and take us ever closer to a cure. But if, as part of that, we can also create opportunities to give them back more time to enjoy what life has to offer, that truly will be a precious thing.
And with Blood Cancer Awareness Month starting this week, now is the perfect time to talk more about it and identify what more we can do.