Since joining the field of cancer research almost two decades ago, I’ve seen tremendous advances made as we’ve learned more about the disease and identified better ways to approach it. But how do we sustain this momentum when COVID-19 is disrupting health systems and lives everywhere? And how can we leverage insights from the pandemic to continue making advances? We’re giving a lot of thought to these questions because we know the cancer community is counting on us.
Here are four ways we’re supporting people with cancer today and beyond.
Support cancer patients with resources so they can get the care they need
It’s essential for people with cancer to receive uninterrupted care, especially during an unprecedented pandemic. We’re working closely with health care stakeholders to support continuity of care through educational initiatives and raising cancer awareness in our communities.
And, because we know that patients have better outcomes with earlier diagnoses, we’re encouraging cancer screenings. This is vital as cancer screening rates have fallen dramatically during the pandemic. In the U.S., routine cancer screenings dropped by approximately 80% between March and April in 2020 – a sobering statistic that we’re focused on changing.
Maintain a continuous supply of essential medicines and vaccines
It’s important that patients get the medicines and vaccines they need, so our manufacturing plants and supply sites have remained open. While we’re always prepared for disruptions, the pandemic has posed unique challenges that call for an agile response. To help us weather future disruptions, we’re implementing new ways of working, such as:
- shifting resources to where they’re needed most
- leveraging digital technologies to troubleshoot problems virtually as they occur
Continue to advance our research
The number of people facing cancer is growing, and by 2030, 22 million people are expected to be diagnosed globally. We must continue advancing research. Our scientific teams are working tirelessly to find new ways to treat cancer, particularly for some of the most challenging forms of the disease.
The world needs new therapies to improve survival in cancer patients, and we will keep working toward that goal with the urgency all patients deserve.
Therefore, in recent years, we have also worked to increase patient diversity in our clinical trials, particularly in our U.S. trials, allowing more patients to access medicines.
Build collaboration to improve cancer health systems
At a time when health systems are under intense pressure to allocate limited resources, we’re collaborating with health care organizations and industry peers to support the sustainability of medicines funding and research. For example, we have a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the National Cancer Institute and several collaborations with Friends of Cancer Research.
We remain focused on trying to improve cancer care, even as we face the pandemic. All the people we’re trying to protect – brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, spouses – are what inspire our urgency to keep up the pace. With their needs at the center of everything we do, I’m confident that we’ll sustain the momentum against cancer during the pandemic and beyond.