This year, Concordia is partnering with Lazarex Cancer Foundation, a non-profit focused on improving patient access to cancer clinical trials.
Bringing together lawmakers, government representatives, pharmaceutical companies, and oncology specialists, the partnership will spark critical discussions around the outlook for cancer treatment across the world, with a focus on ensuring a continued commitment to finding sustainable solutions to accelerating cancer research.
We talk to Dana Dornsife, Chairman of the Board & President of Lazarex Cancer Foundation, and Matthew Swift, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO of Concordia, to find out what they hope to gain from the partnership.
I think there are actually two main challenges facing the healthcare sector. All of the buzz currently in the US is circling around the opioid crisis and how to handle it. Around 50,000 deaths were attributed to the opioid crisis in 2017, and that number is anticipated to increase dramatically over the coming years. So this is obviously something we have to deal with. At the same time, however, we are going to lose 600,000 people to cancer in the US in 2018 alone. So, to me, that’s the silent epidemic. Almost one in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in the course of their lifetime, yet people have become almost numb to hearing about it and often feel there is not much we can do about it. So we really need to bang the gongs and raise the noise around the development of novel treatments for cancer, and we also need to focus on making these treatments accessible to everyone suffering with cancer.
In terms of the greatest opportunity, again, I think there are two aspects to this. On the science and medical side, I think precision medicine really offers tremendous opportunity across all of the disease sectors. However, with precision medicine comes the issues of cost and, again, access. However, I think everyone can immediately begin to make better choices around diet, exercise, and lifestyle, and these choices can help prevent many diseases from occurring at all. It’s a great place to start and it’s much more affordable and inclusive than some of our more technology-driven solutions.
I think cross-sector partnerships are an integral part of providing complete solutions to many challenges, especially our intractable healthcare challenges. At Lazarex, we are focused on connecting cancer patients to clinical trials so they can take advantage of medical breakthroughs in technology. We also focus on removing the barriers that prevent these patients from accessing these trials. In order to accomplish this in a sustainable way, we must engage with all stakeholders in the process. So, we have to get industry—pharma and biotech—on board, in relation to covering some of the ancillary costs on the patient side. We need our policymakers and regulatory bodies to provide the legislation and policy language needed for the healthcare industry to work effectively. We need our medical and academic institutions to work together on the research side but also at the bedside, to deliver our discovery to the patient in a seamless and continual way. We also have to engage with caregivers around educating patients about the importance of clinical trials, as well as making sure insurers understand the benefit of covering the costs patients undergo when participating in clinical trials. And then, finally, we must harness the social capital that community organizations bring, especially to socioeconomically-challenged and medically-underserved minority communities, so that we can provide solutions for people from all walks of life, and not just those who are able to afford it.
And it’s only when we all work together that we will actually be able to make sustainable and permanent change. Individually, we may be able to prompt some small modicum of change, but we need to scale it up. And we also need to do it in a way that’s permanent and sustainable. And in order to do that, we absolutely have to get all of the stakeholders involved.
Our Global Health & Emergency Response Pipeline is multi-dimensional, due to the fact that there are so many different policies and strategies to think about within the global health space. We’ve done a great deal of work over the past few years on pandemics, emergency response, and preparedness, which we’ll continue this year. We’ve also done some important work in the cancer space, in particular exploring how cancer research institutions can better work together, as well as with lawmakers, policymakers, pharmaceutical companies, scientists, and researchers. Concordia is uniquely positioned to serve as a convener in this space, as we can bring together a group of people who oftentimes aren’t in the same room and generally feel rather competitive with one another.
This year, we’re taking a close look at how we can improve access to cancer care. Through our partnership with Lazarex, we’re very excited to focus specifically on helping people access clinical trials. Traditionally, the issue with clinical trials is that you have to travel to participate in them, oftentimes families have to completely relocate, and you have to meet certain requirements in order to qualify for those trials. Lazarex has been focused on not only influencing FDA guidance, but also adjusting the approach to these clinical trials so that foundations can support low-income families and help them access these trials in a way they previously had not—and this is an incredibly important step.
We want to use our Annual Summit as a platform to not only convey Lazarex’s success in this space, but also build on it, by bringing together the right stakeholders in one place. Lazarex’s work is an example of something that is practical and scalable in its nature, and the more it can be replicated, the more of an impact it will have. This year, we’ll also be looking at broader health programs. For instance, during our 2018 Americas Summit in Colombia we explored how to make national health systems more localized—how to strengthen them on the ground.
I hope to use Concordia as a megaphone in order to really help people gain an understanding of the issues surrounding the cancer clinical trial process. Every drug that we use has successfully completed the clinical trial process, and yet we have a total disconnect in relation to enrolling patients in clinical trials. We have hundreds of thousands of patients who need access to medical breakthroughs in technology in order to survive and who would participate in clinical trials, and we have thousands of clinical trials that depend upon patient participation in order to succeed, and they’re just not finding each other. Once people understand the challenges around this issue, they immediately get it. So I’m really looking forward to working with Concordia to bring this critical issue to light. Concordia provides a platform through which to bring passionate and compassionate people together, to get them focused on areas of need from so many different perspectives and, consequently, to come up with innovative solutions for healthcare.
First and foremost, our programming is going to raise awareness and feature very solution-oriented progress that’s been made when thinking about cancer treatment and access to care and preventative care. But, crucially, we’re also going to place the emphasis on how to scale this. What takes place in the US can often serve as a model for the rest of the world. Therefore, how do we bring this success in the cancer space to places like Latin America, West Africa, and parts of Europe, where we’re continuing to expand Concordia programming and where our membership community continues to evolve and grow. I am proud to be working closely with Dana and Lazarex over the coming months and am confident that the conversations taking place at the Annual Summit will lead to sustainable, innovative progress in the global healthcare space.