Blood Cancer Awareness Month: Five ways collaboration can help beat blood cancer
September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month. A time to raise awareness of the key issues affecting more than 250,000 people in the UK living with a blood cancer 1. And a time to ask ourselves; how can we harness all of the goodwill and enthusiasm across the scientific and patient communities to foster true collaboration to beat this potentially deadly disease?
Looking at the rapid rate of progress in this area, it is impossible not to feel inspired by the pace of change. For some patients, advances in cell and gene therapies and newer, innovative, targeted therapies now have the potential to offer improved survival rates.
However, there is still more to be done. Challenges remain in how we find new ways to diagnose, treat and ultimately improve patients’ lives. While there is a common purpose and shared enthusiasm to do this, it’s time to turn that common purpose into action through greater collaboration, to help provide new effective treatment options:
Collaboration between pharma companies: Improving collaboration between pharma companies in order to increase the number of studies in blood cancers, is very important. UK haematology research networks have been influential on a global scale, and these networks should be empowered and given the resources to conduct more studies to a regulatory standard. This in turn, will help to remove the barriers between academic and commercial studies.
Access to earlier clinical research: Historically, the UK has not been chosen to participate in early phase clinical research. We need to emphasise that UK academic centres have the scientific capabilities to conduct early phase studies. If we leverage these capabilities to build a thriving clinical research environment, we can help patients to benefit from newer therapies earlier in the course of their disease.
Assessing the value of new medicines: There are increasing calls for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to adopt a new method of evaluating the value of innovative medicines in the UK. By altering the approach to focus on value-based healthcare, the pharma industry may be able to bring innovative therapies to the patients that need them in a more efficient way, ensuring that everyone benefits from treatment advances.
New diagnostic standards: Whilst we welcome initiatives such as the 100,000 Genomes Project and advances in personalised medicine, there is still more than can be done. The pharma industry must collaborate with clinical and research groups to help develop the skills of the next wave of haematology doctors and scientists, which will allow them to take full advantage of next generation testing within the NHS.
Advocacy efforts: A focus on blood cancer awareness and early detection of the disease can only occur with stronger advocacy amongst patient bodies and effective lobbying at a government level. This must be supported by the clinical community, with earlier recognition and referral in primary care as the first, important step.
This Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Janssen UK is sponsoring the Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign which aims to improve earlier diagnosis by helping people to connect the dots and recognise the symptoms of blood cancer – because early detection of cancer saves lives 2.
But connecting the dots does not stop at increased awareness. Now more than ever, we must also connect the dots and encourage collaboration and partnerships among all stakeholders, including the clinical community, patient advocacy groups, pharma companies and the NHS.
Now is the time for us to truly come together, to impact clinical care and improve patients’ lives as swiftly as possible.
Make Blood Cancer Visible is sponsored by Janssen and supported by blood cancer patient support groups; Bloodwise, CLL Support Association, CML Support, Leuka, Leukaemia Care, Lymphoma Action, MDS Patient Support, Myeloma UK, and Waldenstrom’s (WM) UK. The campaign has been raising awareness of the condition since 2017.
1. Bloodwise. What is blood cancer?
2. WHO. Guide to Cancer Early Diagnosis. 2017.
Job Code: CP-108500 Date of preparation: September 2019