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The role of pharma in cancer survivorship

01/02/17 15:45
Dr Nicola Davies



World Cancer Day 2017 marks the second year of this three-year project. As well as building a wider awareness of the issues faced by cancer survivors, World Cancer Day 2017, on 4th February, is an opportunity for the pharma and life sciences industry to become more patient centric and develop value-added initiatives that go beyond therapy innovation.

Cancer survivorship is a long journey, with many twists and turns along the pathway. Pharma, more used to focusing their efforts on the need for modern, effective therapies, often lose sight of other ways in which they can play a role in patients’ ongoing care.

As patients adjust to the ‘new normal’ that cancer survivorship necessitates, seven aspects of care have been identified along the care pathway. This was initially developed by the National Cancer Survivorship initiative in 2008 by the Department of Health and Macmillan Cancer Support. While no longer active, the identified pathway remains relevant and informative, taking into account aspects of:

  • Assessment, care planning, and immediate post-treatment approaches to care
  • Managing active and advanced disease
  • Late effects
  • Children and young people
  • Self-care and self-management
  • Work and finances
  • Research

Increasing demands on HCPs’ time and resources compromises long-term care in all these areas, so pharma-led initiatives and partnerships with stakeholders would be welcomed by all. Partnership with stakeholders is, in fact, vital due to compliance issues, but offers pharma a unique insight into unmet patient needs through patient-reported outcomes. The pharma industry can use this information to develop programmes that complement physicians and healthcare professionals in their efforts to give self-management support to cancer survivors.

Community and patient advocacy groups

Supporting World Cancer Day offers the pharma industry a window of opportunity to demonstrate support for initiatives that promote long term care, helping patients towards behaviour change and self-management skills. There are many areas in which pharma can provide a significant contribution to existing or new survivorship care plans.

The digital platform

Personalised aftercare services have an added appeal to cancer survivors because everyone’s journey is different depending on health literacy, activation, available support and ability to manage physiological or psychological issues. One of the most powerful ways pharma can tap into the need to personalise ongoing care for patients is via the digital platform. Existing avenues to explore include social media channels, online forums and mobile applications. 

The online world is attractive to patients partly because it is both anonymous and personal. Patients can engage as far as they wish or feel able, and gain access to support when it’s convenient for them, rather than the clinic or hospital. This versatility also encourages self-management. Areas the digital platform can help with include:

  • Information on health and fitness.
  • Conversation opportunities with fellow survivors.
  • Motivational messages and encouragement.
  • Tailored content for specific cancers or treatment options.
  • Emotional and practical support.
  • Behaviour tracking or journaling opportunities.
  • Medical jargon glossaries to help patients understand and explore medical terms following consultation.

Such online applications and forums can also be extremely beneficial in helping patients overcome feelings of isolation by enhancing their sense of social wellbeing.

These are just a few of the ways in which pharma can demonstrate support for World Cancer Day 2017, by playing a greater role in the development of future cancer survivorship programmes.

By offering cancer survivor care solutions, everyone benefits: the long-term recipients of health care, the overburdened NHS, the insurers and payers who need to reduce spending, and the pharma industry itself through stronger HCP engagement.


Behaviour Change 


Topics: World Cancer Day

Dr Nicola Davies

Dr Nicola Davies is a Medical Writer and Health Psychology Consultant with articles in over 130 publications worldwide. Her expertise is within the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries, where she has worked with individual pharma companies as well as the FDA. While her primary focus has been on the patient, she has been expanding into marketing and commercial. As such, she has produced large best practice Dossiers on topics ranging from improving the customer experience to utilising multichannel marketing strategies. Her background is in research, for which she has 17 years’ experience that has been utilised to assist pharma to measure and interpret patient outcomes.

See more posts by Dr Nicola Davies