In 2009 I worked for a biotech company who had a pipeline of what we called back then “assets”. These are treatments in early stage development that varied from pre-clinical to Phase 2 “proof of concept”. My role was to focus on identifying market opportunities, guide the product development team with this insight, and present a well-argued business case to Big Pharma who may be interested in purchasing the asset from us. The patient was rarely part of the conversation.
Recently I began working with a client who has a new treatment for a rare cancer. As their agency we’re building their communications, and that process typically starts with understanding the patient and physician needs through research.
But it dawned on me how much personal experience I already have with cancer. Like so many of us, I have relatives and friends who have suffered (and are suffering right now).
My old auntie – who I’m very fond of – is in her 80′s and is in palliative care. Since her diagnosis 5 yrs ago, she has never complained about her illness and her discomfort. When we visit her, she simply focuses her energy on nagging us and making bad jokes, with a big smile! I’m always humbled when I see her.
I have an uncle in his 70’s, who has leukemia and dementia, and the burden on my extended family is incredibly difficult.
It’s not just the elderly. A friend of my wife who is in her 30′s was diagnosed last year, and (thankfully) successfully recovered. To know someone this young who has cancer was shocking to everyone that knows her.
You probably have similar stories that you can share.
The point is this. So many diseases that we work in, seem like they happen to people we don’t personally know. Cancer is different. For many people it’s very personal and is a daily conversation. So when I approach a marketing challenge, or discuss strategy, or review a concept, more than ever I’m wondering if the idea we’re proposing is better for the company or better for the patient?
Ultimately, in our roles, we have an obligation to both company and the patient, but I have a feeling in this case the nagging voice of my old auntie will be top of mind!
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