Bristol Myers Squibb has enlisted actor Sterling K. Brown for a new program that aims to address the needs of an ever-increasing number of cancer survivors.
As part of the campaign, called “Survivorship Today,” Brown will talk to cancer survivors across the U.S. about the after-effects of cancer and treatment. Interviews will explore issues such as physical and mental well-being in the post-treatment survivorship phase.
The companion website gathers resources and education, including advice and reflections from patients and advocacy groups.
Thanks to better treatments and innovative drugs, people are living with cancer longer than ever before. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that financial, mental, emotional and physical support systems and resources have not kept up.
“People with cancer are living longer, but the reality is we’re just starting to truly understand what it means to live long-term with cancer,” said a spokesperson for Bristol, which fields the immunotherapies Opdivo and Yervoy. “Many people think the clock just turns back to before they had cancer, but the truth is life is never really the same.”
One statistic noted on the website, for instance, is that of the 17 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today, only 15% felt very prepared for life after treatment. And the number of survivors is expected to swell to 22 million in the next 10 years.
Brown, best known for his role as Randall Pearson on the hit show “This is Us,” connects to the effort through his Uncle Sonny, who died in 2004 after six months with cancer. His uncle’s death devastated his family, and Brown is determined to advocate for ongoing support for people living with cancer.
“I am emboldened by the idea that cancer may cease to be a death sentence in my lifetime,” he says in an online video. “I want to do everything I can to support people who face it—whether it’s six months like my Uncle Sonny or for years.”
Adam Lenkowsky, general manager and head of Bristol Myers Squibb’s oncology, immunology and cardiovascular business in the U.S., said in a statement that cancer survivors can face years of lasting effects.
“Navigating this new normal can be challenging, leaving patients feeling isolated or uncertain about what comes next—especially during this pandemic,” he said, adding that the goal of the campaign is “to address misperceptions about what life is like after cancer treatment, and help connect patients and their loved ones with resources that are available to help them navigate what comes next.”
Bristol Myers’ immuno-oncology blockbuster Opdivo is facing increased competition, not only from key PD-1 competitor Keytruda from Merck but also from a slew of other therapies with varying mechanisms of action and indications.
Opdivo’s most recent good news came in May, when it picked up two approvals in previously untreated non-small cell lung cancer alongside fellow immunotherapy Yervoy.