How listening to patients could change the way we tackle cancer

chemotherapy

A doctor examines a pediatric patient who is receiving chemotherapy. (Credit: National Cancer Institute, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Julie Louise Gerberding, Executive Vice President & Chief Patient Officer, MSD


  • Cancer remains one of the world’s deadliest diseases.
  • Between 30 and 50% of all cancers are preventable.
  • Listening to patients will help all stakeholders improve how cancer is tackled.

Cancer kills approximately nine million people worldwide, according to recent estimates. Twice that number (18 million) receive a cancer diagnosis that will forever change their lives. Despite incredible advances in treatment, cancer remains one of the world’s deadliest diseases—and as the global population ages, the human toll of cancer is growing every day.

For patients, the battle against cancer is fundamentally personal and often fought in private. As a society, however, we now have the tools to fight and, in many cases, win this battle on a global scale. Empowered by digital social networks, patients, caregivers, and advocates around the world are building innovative alliances that are influencing the cancer research agenda, accelerating drug development timelines, and reshaping the global health landscape.

 

These grassroots alliances are gaining momentum, fueled by courageous patients whose lives are at stake and patient advocates who are committed to amplifying their voices. To accelerate progress, however, patients and advocates need more support from partners in every sector—including governments, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, and the global business community.

The power of patient advocates

As part of my job as MSD’s Chief Patient Officer, I’ve traveled around the world to meet with patient advocacy organizations and learn from their insights.

In country after country, I have found exceptionally passionate advocates who are committed to bringing patients’ voices and perspectives to the table. They are on the front lines of the battle against cancer and understand, more than any other group, what is needed to make progress.

For example, in the area of drug discovery and development, patient advocates have helped us understand how clinical trials should be conducted in their respective communities. They have also provided invaluable input into how cancer centers should be designed in order to serve local patients’ needs as effectively as possible.

Key insights like these are making a real difference for cancer patients around the world. At the same time, patient advocacy organizations typically operate with limited resources and sometimes struggle to be heard. That’s why it’s so important for public- and private-sector organizations to align with patient advocates and empower them to succeed.

The private sector has a stake in this fight

For the business community, there are strong incentives to engage in the battle against cancer. In the U.S. alone, 3 million people with cancer are actively employed, while 25 percent of all employees serve as caregivers for loved ones with the disease. This can, understandably, be a drain on a company’s overall productivity. Undergoing treatment or caring for someone with cancer is incredibly taxing, both emotionally and physically. It’s often an around-the-clock job—making it difficult for employees to perform at their best when they’re actually on the clock.

Beyond its impact on the workforce, cancer also directly affects companies’ bottom lines. For example, in the U.S., cancer represents 12 percent of employers’ total medical costs. Overall, the private sector pays $125 billion toward coverage for cancer treatment every year. So while defeating cancer should be priority for society as a whole, the business community has clear reasons to invest in the fight.

Cancer rates
Cancer rates are predicted to rise
Image: WHO

Progress through investment

Over the past few years, there’s been an enthusiastic push by the global business community to find new ways to invest in people and address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. As companies put more emphasis on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment decisions, they should consider increasing their focus on cancer prevention and care.

One of the most critical and cost-effective options for companies looking to invest is prevention. Right now, between 30 and 50% of all cancers are preventable, so businesses can make a substantial impact by providing employees and community members with practical tools such as free screenings and tobacco-cessation programs. They can also help reduce health disparities that contribute to cancer deaths globally. Today, cancer-causing infections such as hepatitis and human papilloma virus (HPV) are both treatable by vaccines, yet they are still responsible for 25%of cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries. Investments to increase vaccine access could make a huge difference.

What is Gavi?

Gavi is an Alliance launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2000. It has contributed to the immunization of nearly 700 million children, saving an estimated 10 million lives worldwide in less than 20 years.

Gavi was launched with an initial pledge of $750 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The aim of Gavi is to make vaccines more accessible and affordable for all children, wherever they live. It brings together the best efforts of UN agencies, governments, the vaccines industry and civil society to improve childhood immunization in developing countries and accelerate access to new vaccines.

Gavi works closely with our System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare. Contact us to help improve the state of healthcare globally.

Treatment is another area that is prime for investment. Recent advancements in immunotherapy and other targeted therapies have greatly improved patient outcomes. My own company, MSD, is partnering with universities, governments and advocates to accelerate research progress, but we’re just one company. To make paradigm-shifting breakthroughs a reality, it will take a broader societal commitment, including from the private sector.

Power up progress

This is a pivotal moment in the battle against cancer. The opportunities for progress are greater than ever, but if we’re going to seize them—and save millions of lives in the process—we need governments, philanthropic organizations, and, yes, the business community to work with advocates to lift up patients’ voices. As global leaders, it is our obligation to rethink how we solve problems and then align our strategic priorities to tackle this devastating disease head-on. It’s time to join with patient advocates around the world and power up progress to defeat cancer.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Cities are easy prey for cybercriminals. Here’s how they can fight back

MEPs to prioritise environment and climate action in next long-term budget

The financial future of Eurozone on the agenda of Friday’s ECOFIN council

5 ways Denmark is preparing for the future of work

Cameroon: Clear ‘window of opportunity’ to solve crises rooted in violence – Bachelet

Italian electoral results to change Eurozone climate and weight on the Cyprus issue

FROM THE FIELD: ‘A piece of me’ was taken

How to get young people in Europe to swipe right on voting

These are America’s most dangerous jobs

Dieselgate: Parliament calls for mandatory retrofits of polluting cars

These are the countries that have made their climate commitments law

A jingoistic Spanish ‘war’ from the past

Obama, Crimea and the TTIP pill

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of DSME by HHIH

The end of Spitzenkandidat: EU leaders concluded unexpectedly on EU top jobs

Main results of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) – 18-19/10/2018

Glaringly false reassurances about the repercussions of the EU-US free trade agreement

TTIP wins Merkel’s endorsement ahead of 2016 tough deadline

Is corporation tax good or bad for growth?

‘Multiplicity’ of rights violations in Ukraine as fifth winter of conflict bites

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: prizewinning journalists freed in Myanmar, new tracking tool for suspected terrorists, and a global bid to stop snakebite deaths

ACP-EU : Agreement on climate change, migration and post-Cotonou

European tourism remains a strong growth factor

Parliament to ask for the suspension of EU-US deal on bank data

EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: third annual report shows continued vital and tangible support for refugees and their host communities

Women vital for ‘new paradigm’ in Africa’s Sahel region, Security Council hears

Opening – EP remembers Nelson Mandela and mourns attacks on Roma in Ukraine

Peace in the Gulf ‘at a critical juncture’ says DiCarlo, urging continuation of Iran nuclear deal

Berlin vies for a Germanic European Central Bank

What the future holds for the EU – China relations?

Why our future relies on more inclusive and transparent innovation

ECB policy is working, but new challenges need new responses

Security Council should ‘nurture’ Colombian consensus against return to violence, top UN official urges

Safe spaces offer security and dignity for youth, and help make the world ‘better for all’: Guterres

Top global firms commit to tackling inequality by joining Business for Inclusive Growth coalition

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

Ukraine pays the price for lying between Russia and the EU

As Saudi women take the wheel, UN chief hopes end of driving ban creates more opportunities for kingdom’s women and girls

Free and secure access needed in DR Congo conflict zone to tackle Ebola – WHO

The future of crypto-assets, from opportunities to policy implications

Sanctions on Russia to be the biggest unity test at this European Council

Mental health and suicide prevention – what can be done to increase access to mental health services in my local area?

How Germany strives to mold ECB’s monetary policy to her interests

“Asia-Pacific takes stock of ambitious development targets”, written by the Heads of UNFPA and ESCAP

Terrorism diverts resources from ‘much-needed’ development to ‘costly’ security, warns UN envoy for Central Africa

Innovative urban financing can make our cities stronger

What next for Europe? Three (completely) different Davos views

Amsterdam has a bubble barrier to catch canal plastic

UN strengthens ties with Eurasia regional body to tackle terrorism and crime

Illegal fishing: EU lifts Taiwan’s yellow card following reforms

Commission concludes that an Excessive Deficit Procedure is no longer warranted for Italy at this stage

Education expenditure in the EU not hurt much by crisis

UN chief condemns killing of ‘blue helmets’ in DR Congo, as violence erupts prior to elections

5 key themes for reforming the EU, as elections loom

Fashion has a huge waste problem. Here’s how it can change

Security Council urges countries to factor child protection into conflict prevention efforts

EU leaders let tax-evaders untouched

The creative technology and its advancements

How to make PHC a favourable career choice for medical students: Strategies and reflections

Global Leaders Take The Stage At MWC Shanghai 2019, in association with The European Sting

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s