World Cancer Day 2021: Working Together to Advance the Science of Oncology
04 FEB 2021
From strategic and patient-focused development programs to our collaborations, we work with urgency to help change the natural history of cancer.
For three years, the theme of World Cancer Day — “I Am and I Will” — in many ways has been a rallying cry within the cancer community. The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) believes that together, with persistence and a collaborative spirit, we can incite powerful progress in reducing the global impact of cancer.
At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we’re driven daily by this commitment. From our strategic and patient-focused clinical development programs to our collaborations and funding of independent research, it is with an incredible sense of urgency that we’re working tirelessly alongside the cancer community to discover, develop and accelerate breakthroughs in cancer treatment.
This World Cancer Day we take a look at some of the actions we have taken, and will take, as we work to make a positive impact for people living with cancer and, ultimately, change the natural history of cancer.
Designing clinical trials to optimize impact
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has always been guided by a culture of curiosity and scientific exploration in the pursuit of developing transformative medicines. With each clinical trial, we’re committed to applying prior learnings in order to better meet the needs of people with cancer, collaborating with renowned researchers both to enhance our current medicines, as well as develop new therapeutics that can meaningfully change lives.
Today, we’re proud to have advanced 100+ clinical trials (e.g., JAVELIN Bladder 100) across 15+ tumor types that we believe, will continue to impact treatment paradigms and advance standards of care.
Not only are we making significant headway in clinical trials and therapeutics, but we’ve also made progress in our understanding of disease biology, embracing highly focused areas within precision medicine, immuno-oncology (IO) and DNA damage response (DDR). Our deep understanding in this space — which is rooted in past experience — has provided us with the ability to accelerate innovative cancer treatments.
Making patients the focus
We uniquely want to be patient-directed. Because if we want to make a real and enduring impact on patients’ lives and health systems worldwide, being ‘patient-centric’ is simply not enough. Inspired by the mantra of patients, “Nothing about us, without us,” we work hard to listen to, and infuse, their voice across all critical points of the R&D continuum — placing them, their caregivers and loved ones at the heart of everything we do. Whether it’s through our Embracing Carers™ program or through our patient-focused approach across discovery to the development and distribution of our cancer treatments, we remain determined to creating an ecosystem of resources capable of not only improving patient outcomes, but also improving the patient experience.
From our earliest days, our goal has been to ensure that our treatments reach every patient who could benefit. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, it goes without saying that the topic of access has perhaps never been more important. It’s with this in mind that we’re collaborating with leading advocacy organizations in order to provide support services during this difficult time.
Investing in transformative research
Across R&D, our courage and curiosity are fundamental to the development of our pipeline. We’ve proudly implemented a number of initiatives, such as leveraging CRISPR libraries, and collaborating with Cancer Research UK and The Institute of Cancer Research, London to stimulate discovery both within and outside our portfolio. In December 2020 we announced a global three year strategic research collaboration to discover and develop multiple precision oncology drugs with Artios, a leading DDR company. This collaboration further strengthens our leadership and expertise in the field and discovery of DDR inhibitors and complements our multiple innovative assets currently being evaluated in several Phase I and Phase II clinical studies.
We also invest in the success of individuals. Every year, we support outstanding scientific preclinical research accomplishments in the areas of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt. Germany’s strategic focus. This year’s recipient, Caroline Dive, Senior Group Leader and Deputy Director at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, is an extraordinary representative of our mission. We look forward to seeing what she, and other honorees, do both now and in the future.
Not Doing It Alone
We believe collaboration is a key component to working more efficiently and effectively. We look to complement our internal scientific expertise through meaningful and strategic external collaborations with leading and curious minds in the cancer community that advance the science of oncology. Our partners share our desire for scientific advancement and feel a great sense of responsibility to improve outcomes for people living with cancer.
We proudly co-founded the Global Oncology Big Data Alliance (GOBDA), which we jointly lead with Project Data Sphere LLC, an independent, not-for-profit initiative of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer's Life Sciences Consortium, to connect and empower the oncology community by making big data more accessible to researchers around the world free of charge. As part of GOBDA, we recently advanced two promising data-driven programs, including the rare tumor registry and the immune-response adverse events database, to improve outcomes for cancer patients through open data collaboration. Moving forward, we believe that initiatives like these will help lay the groundwork for scalable data collection, paying dividends in more comprehensive and accurate analyses.
Concurrent with these initiatives, it’s essential to invest in the innovators of tomorrow. That’s why over the last 12 years, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s €400m corporate venture capital fund “M Ventures” has invested into 18 promising startups in the oncology and immuno-oncology space, providing essential support to turn science into healthcare with the potential to improve patient’s lives.
Building upon our heritage, expertise, investment and incredible partnerships, we hope to continue “carrying the torch” of curiosity in order to catalyze positive change. We believe that breakthroughs emerge when we have the courage to adapt, innovate and overcome obstacles that appear in our way. In many ways, these ideals are foundational to who we are and what we stand for as a company — serving as a source of continued inspiration for future achievement.
Today and every day, our team members come to work embodying the credo “I Am and I Will” — motivated by our past achievements and determined to reach our future goals. Truthfully, each of us has been impacted by cancer in some way, which both motivates and inspires our teams to keep fighting. This World Cancer Day, we’re proud to recognize their unwavering commitment, and look forward to seeing where their curiosity leads us as we continue to work together with the cancer community toward our hope of a cure.
The header image was captured before COVID-19 regulations.