Working Together to Create a Future Without Cancer: Takeaways from The Economist’s World Cancer Series

Author: Stefanie Granado, PhD, Head, EUCAN Oncology Business Unit | Published: Nov 23 2021

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn on November 22, 2021

Earlier this month, I attended The Economist’s World Cancer Series: Europe event, which brought together leaders from across the oncology ecosystem to discuss how we can improve cancer care on a global scale.

I had the pleasure of speaking on the panel “Realising the vision 2: working together as different stakeholders” alongside John D. Halamka, President, Mayo Clinic Platform; Antonella Cardone, Director, European Cancer Patient Coalition; and Rose Nguyen, Investment Manager, Baillie Gifford, who each brought unique thinking to the table on what it will take to better serve those with cancer. Despite our different focus areas, our beliefs, visions and ideas all converged around one ultimate aspiration – to create a future without cancer.

It’s clear that we have our work cut out for us as we approach a new year – but I believe that it will be an exciting and potentially transformative one. Below are a few key takeaways that emerged from our conversation that I see continuing to be at the forefront in 2022.

Curing cancer is a shared responsibility

This is something we all immediately agreed on. We simply can’t outsmart cancer alone and doing so effectively involves close collaboration with stakeholders early and often.

Our work with the UK’s Emergency COVID Funding for Cancer Medicines is a good example of how an effective partnership can be a difference maker for patients. In spring 2020, National Health Service (NHS) England asked the industry to bring forward any treatments that may help keep cancer patients out of the hospital and minimize their risk of exposure to COVID-19. In response, our UK team collaborated with NHS England to expand access to Takeda treatments for blood cancer patients within weeks of the initial request. Since then, approximately 700 additional patients have been able to access these treatments, enabling them to either shield at home or have less hospital exposure while continuing to receive effective therapies.

The oncology ecosystem is built on a wealth of research, but we must share this knowledge with one another and identify solutions together to help fill the gaps and have a true impact on patients.

Addressing the “sticky areas”

We’ve come a long way over the past several decades in cancer care, but to move the industry forward, we must address what is still not working.

One of the major “sticky areas” at the forefront of the oncology industry today is the misalignment among regulators, payers and overall industry that is resulting in delayed or lack of access for patients. If and when a treatment is approved, certain patients can access it right away, while others may need to wait years for the same treatment due to access challenges in the region or country where they live. This must change.

One way to address this is by collaborating with and involving payers and policymakers early on in the process and identifying solutions for potential access issues before they arise.

Let’s look at combination treatments as an example. Combination treatments have been shown to improve outcomes, particularly in cancer, but access to them remains a challenge. To address this, we recently developed an advisory panel of experts from the patient, economics, legal and academic communities, with input from health technology assessment (HTA) bodies and payers, to overcome longstanding issues. Together, we recently outlined potential solutions: an economic method to attribute value to each medicine in the combination, and a framework for voluntary arbitration to be used for intercompany dialogue. We hope this collaboration helps us to eliminate barriers and reach more people in need.

Putting patients first – period

Whether we’re introducing a transformative new treatment or developing solutions to address the “sticky areas,” it is crucial that we are always bringing our efforts back to what is best for patients.

As brought to life by the many provocative discussions held at this year’s World Cancer Series, doing right by patients can be approached or achieved in many ways depending on your role within the industry.

At Takeda, all our decisions are guided by our Patient > Trust > Reputation > Business (PTRB) framework – putting the health, well-being and safety of patients first, building trust with society, reinforcing our reputation and developing our business, in that order. Living PTRB means putting the patient at the center of every conversation, which is what we aim to do every day.

We need to insist on breaking free from our silos and consolidate our efforts across industries, communities and functions, so that what we can bring to the patients we serve can be truly remarkable.

Let’s embrace this opportunity together as one oncology community, so that we can improve today’s standards of care for patients.