WCD 2023: Cancer Doesn’t Care. But We Do.
01 FEB 2023
Cancer doesn’t care where you live, what you do, or who you are. Which is why equality in care is so important. Every patient should be able to benefit from the same standard of treatment.
No patient with cancer should be denied care because of social determinants. The equity gap in cancer is costing lives. If we unite and work together, we can all be empowered to close the gap in cancer care.
World Cancer Day 2023: Uniting Our Voices and Taking Action
We believe that when we unite, we can help create a better future for people living with cancer.
That is why together with our colleagues, peers, academic and industry partners, and others, we bring our dedication and passion as we work to offer the chance for more tomorrows to as many patients with cancer as possible. By imagining a better way of doing things, we can build a fairer vision for the future for everyone faced with cancer—no matter where you are born, grow, work or live.
At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we’re working around the world to achieve this goal by enhancing cancer education, improving patient care, and making it easier to access services and treatments. At every step throughout the discovery, development and delivery of our cancer treatments, our colleagues are working with patient advocacy groups, medical professionals and more to bring patients closer to realizing equal access to care.
Uniting expertise to accelerate discovery and development of new treatments
The journey to creating access to treatments begins with new discoveries. In cancer, every moment counts. By uniting our colleagues across our research departments and laboratories together with external research partners and academia, we can combine our expertise to innovate more efficiently and effectively.
An example of this in action is IMMUcan, a public-private consortium under Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, Healthcare leadership. In a true collaborative effort between multiple pharma partners and high-profile academic institutions, IMMUcan is generating patient-derived molecular and cellular profiling data of the human tumor microenvironment supplemented with clinical data. This data set will allow us to much better understand how the immune system and tumors interact, to delineate the impact of current therapies, and eventually, to discover new biomarkers and maximize therapeutic opportunities for patients.
We continue this spirit of collaboration as we enter the development phase and ultimately bring our therapies to patients. As we consider how we can ‘Close The Care Gap’ and deliver the best possible treatment to patients around the world, we identify the right partners to support our work. We have built strong alliances and innovative new collaborations with academia, research consortiums, and industry partners to conduct clinical studies designed to advance new medicines and treatment regimens that can benefit patients.
Being patient-directed: infusing the patient voice
Ultimately, every decision we make in our work and each medicine we introduce has an impact on the lives of patients and their family carers.
By being patient-directed, we strive to embed patient perspectives into every aspect of our work, whether it’s through our Embracing Carers® program or through our patient-focused approach to the discovery, development and delivery of treatments.
Across our clinical trials, whether conducted on our own or in collaboration with partners, we remain committed to developing treatments that meet diverse patients’ needs and take action to ensure proper representation of diverse populations in our clinical trials. We collaborate with more than 300 patient- and carer-led organizations globally to shape our clinical trials, address public health priorities, and challenge social inequities.1
Each year we gather insights from thousands of patients and family carers. This helps us better understand their experiences and in turn inform our decisions.2 We were recently recognized by Bioethics International with a Gold Rating for diversity, equity and inclusion in clinical trials. The rating was based on a “fair inclusion” score that was informed by transparency and inclusivity data collected from pivotal trials of novel oncology therapeutics.3 We work every day to improve even further on these measures.
Understanding and overcoming gaps to create and accelerate access
In oncology, the clinical evidence required for regulatory approval of innovative treatments, particularly when there is no standard of care, can sometimes be based on single-arm studies (where there is no active comparator) and/or data from earlier-stage clinical trials.
However, despite receiving approval from a regulator, payers can require significantly more evidence for reimbursement and/or may restrict the patient population that may access innovative therapies. The evidence requirements may also differ considerably by country and even within countries. This creates a gap where a medicine is technically available for patients with a particular disease but is either not prescribed at all for that condition or is limited to a smaller subset of patients.
As a company, we work closely with regulatory agencies, patient advocates and healthcare professionals to try and close that gap as quickly as possible. We are always working to identify new ways to ensure that appropriate patients and HCPs can access innovative treatments rapidly after they are approved so they can benefit.
Joining forces with physicians to shape cancer medicines
We also involve research oncologists and clinicians at every step in the design and execution of our clinical studies to ensure that they are clinically relevant, scientifically innovative and have the potential to bring our medicines to patients faster. Furthermore, we provide opportunities to research oncologists and clinicians to share and discuss their clinical and scientific experience with our medicines with other physicians, which allows us to refine clinical development strategies and improve patient outcomes. Our commitment to our partnerships with physicians enables us to realize the full potential of our medicines in order to bring the greatest benefit to patients.
Our commitment for ‘Health For All’
At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we work to achieve progress for people, communities and society. Our scope is to address healthcare challenges that affect millions of people and improve the health of underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Through our scientific and technological innovations and the close collaborations with our partners we work to drive pioneering solutions, partnerships and sustainable business models that address unmet needs across the health value chain, and help contribute to the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. One of our strategic priorities is to improve human progress for more than 1 billion people by 2030. This commitment is not solely in oncology, but across all of our medicines and sectors.
The cornerstone of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s commitment to ‘Health for All’ is access to medicines in LMICs. Our Global Health and LMIC Access strategies will enable us to develop and deliver transformative specialty medicines to patients with high unmet needs in underserved populations. Our oncology-focused efforts in these LMIC countries aim to improve the lives of patients with colorectal, bladder and head and neck cancers.
In 2022 Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, ranked 5th in the 2022 Access to Medicine (ATM) Index. Read more here.
Uniting Our Voice and Taking Action
Our efforts so far have led to new standards of care for multiple tumor types. But we will not stop there. Together with the broader oncology community, we are always exploring opportunities to further improving these treatment regimens, advancing new therapies, and working tirelessly to bring these innovative cancer treatments to as many patients as possible.
Because we believe everyone deserves access to cancer care.
Because we are united to work toward changing the face of cancer, for everyone.
Because we are with you, and we will never stop.
1 Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Data on File (Global Collaborations). Available on request.
2 Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Data on File (Insights Gathered). Available on request.
3 Varma T, Mello M, Ross JS, Gross C, Miller J. Metrics, baseline scores, and a tool to improve sponsor performance on clinical trial diversity: retrospective cross sectional study. BMJMED 2023;2:e000395. doi:10.1136/ bmjmed-2022-000395.