Tag Archives: ASCO

Bringing Medical Meetings to Everyone via Social Media

For decades, medical meetings have been a place for doctors, patients, researchers and advocates to engage with each other and share information about the latest advances in treatments and science.

That engagement level has exploded over the last few years, however, with the rise of social media. Now, attendees can talk not only to others in the meeting hall but also in every corner of the globe.

Social media takes medical meetings beyond the convention center walls to provide a real-time yet enduring story of patient experiences, scientific breakthroughs and inspirational speakers. It opens the meetings up to anyone, whether they have a deep or passing interest in all or any of the subjects being discussed, while democratizing the sharing of information.

Journalists can report in real time. Attendees can take notes in a public way. And anyone with access to the Internet can get in on the conversation.

That’s good for patients. That’s good for health care providers. And that’s good for companies like AstraZeneca that value learning from those who are facing diseases for which we are fiercely working to development new and more effective treatments.

How important has social media grown to become at medical meetings? Consider: The 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting saw 4,352 different people tweet 21,861 times using the #ASCO13 hashtag throughout the year. Two years later, the #ASCO15 meeting was mentioned in 81,273 tweets from 16,664 people – a nearly four-fold increase.

And it’s not just ASCO. The American Heart Association’s annual meeting saw a four-fold increase in Twitter activity between 2013 (#AHA2013) and 2015 (#AHA2015) as well, according to the analytics firm Symplur. Similar increases were seen at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Diabetes Association (ADA) scientific sessions.

ACC 2012, 2015

AstraZeneca once again will participate in major meetings in our therapeutic areas this year, including ASCO, AHA, ACC, ADA and several others. In addition to our live presence at the meetings, we hope to accomplish the following through our social engagement:

  • Conduct live, authentic dialogue with those in attendance as well as those following along virtually.
  • Share our messages and resources with an informed, engaged audience.
  • Continue conversations begun face to face in the meeting halls.
  • Glean key areas of focus of those affected by the diseases being studied to better inform our efforts as a company.

It is increasingly crucial for all players in healthcare to be engaged in social media, as more and more Americans use these platforms:

  • Overall, 62 percent of adults in the United States use Facebook, while 22 percent use LinkedIn and 20 percent use Twitter, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • One in 20 Google searches seek health-related information, according to Google.
  • Meanwhile, 41 percent in one survey said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility.
  • Finally, 32 percent of insured Americans say they are uncomfortable with their personal knowledge and skills navigating the healthcare system – higher than those who are uncomfortable buying a home (25 percent).

Taken together, this means that all segments of the health system have a responsibility to have a social presence that provides accurate and scientifically sound information to patients who are increasingly turning to the Internet and social media for information. That includes information from providers, payers, patient groups and companies like AstraZeneca.

You can follow AstraZeneca in the U.S. on Twitter here and like us on Facebook here to see firsthand how we are engaging via social media.

Meanwhile, we will see you at the meetings – and online!

E-Patient Dave: “The Internet Brings Patients Together”

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting is upon us, and – more than ever – it promises to be a highly social (as in social media) event for doctors, caregivers, industry and patients.

Actually, let’s make that e-patients.

E-patients are at the center of an important and growing movement in which patients are connecting online with fellow patients to become more informed and more involved in their health care.

To highlight the role of e-patients we had the opportunity to ask questions of perhaps the best known e-patient – Dave deBronkart, whose story has been told around the world, including in a TED Talk, the Boston Globe, the BMJ, TIME, US News, USA Today and several other outlets.

Dave-deBronkart-20091229-27-cropped-smallAZ: What is an e-patient?

E-Patient Dave: Tom Ferguson – the founder of e-patients.net – coined the term e-patients to describe patients who are equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their health care decisions.

The growing e-patient movement has demonstrated that as the internet brings patients together with information and with each other, a new world of participatory medicine is evolving, in which patients become potent agents in creating and managing their own health, in partnership with physicians.

AZ: How does an e-patient differ from a “regular” patient?

E-Patient Dave: Empowered and engaged patients don’t expect the system to do everything for them – they do everything in their ability to help out.

Too often, health care conversations occur as if patients aren’t even in the room – as if we are talking about a third person. We can’t let that happen. Being an e-patient is about playing a more active role in your health care. The most underused resource in all of health care is the patient – by far. When patients go online and connect with one another, they gain significant insight that adds to what you get at the doctor’s office.

AZ: You used to be Patient Dave. When – and how – did you become e-Patient Dave?

E-Patient Dave: A year after my diagnosis, I was invited by my primary physician, Dr. Danny Sands, to join the annual retreat of the e-Patient Scholars Working Group. Founded by Tom Ferguson, the group consists of pioneers, both medical and lay, who have been quietly altering the balance of power in healthcare.

I immediately saw myself in this group and became an active blogger on e-patients.net, and began educating myself on the issue as much as I could. I went part-time in my day job in 2009, and left industry entirely in 2010 to devote myself full-time to healthcare.

This is the first time in my life I’ve felt I have a calling, something I can’t get away from: It’s what I need to do. I’ve had plenty of fulfilling jobs in a great career, but not a calling. This is it.

AZ: Oncology patients especially are going online to become more involved in their care. You are a perfect example of this. Do you mind sharing your story?

E-Patient Dave: I was diagnosed in January 2007 with Stage IV, Grade 4 renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) at a very late stage. My median survival time at diagnosis was just 24 weeks. I had tumors in both lungs, several bones, and muscle tissue. My prognosis was “grim,” as one website described it.

Importantly, my primary physician recommended that I join an online patient community. They gave me invaluable perspectives, plus practical advice on treatment options and side effects that today my oncologist says probably helped save my life!

I received great treatment at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. My surgeon removed the extensive mess (laparoscopically!), and the biologic therapy program helped me participate in a clinical trial for a powerful but severe treatment. My last treatment was July 23, 2007, and by September it was clear I had beaten the disease.

AZ: Is the e-patient restricted to cancer patients or patients with serious illnesses?

E-Patient Dave: No! Everyone can become an e-patient because everyone interacts with the health care system – both as patients and as caregivers for children, parents and others. The more equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged that patients are, the better they can serve as valuable partners in their care.

AZ: What do patients have to do to become an effective e-patient?

E-Patient Dave: The first thing is to wake up to the fact that it’s your life that’s at stake, and if you want, you have every right to try to add to what your care team is doing. Don’t be passive – think, “I know I don’t have medical training, but how can I help?”

In my book Let Patients Help I list ten things e-patients do and say. #1 on the list is how to introduce yourself and your preferences to a doctor or nurse: “I’m the kind of patient who likes to understand as much as I can. Can I ask some questions?” The rest follows naturally.

AZ: How did you grow your online following and how often do you currently communicate with them?

E-Patient Dave: I’ve been online since 1989. There are two essential things about being social –online or off – that many people find mysterious, but they’re simple. First, listen.  You can’t be sociable if you don’t know what’s being discussed, because you can’t know what’s on people’s minds. Second, say something useful. So many people wonder why nobody reacts to what they’re saying online. Well, duh, do you have a clue what they’d be interested in? #1 and #2 are about exactly that. Don’t be a leech and don’t be narcissistic; be useful to the community.

AZ: Several years into your e-patient journey, what are the most important things you have learned – and what is your message for those just starting out?

E-Patient Dave: There may be people out there – and resources – who can help. Within two hours of posting my first message in my patient community, I got facts and practical advice that to this day don’t exist in any journal article or establishment website. But, unfortunately, most diseases don’t have such a good community, and there’s still no reliable listing of good communities for all conditions.

The world and what’s possible have changed a ton since most doctors were trained twenty years ago, and most people are just barely waking up to it. Back then all reliable information came through the academic publishing process. That process still works (though e-patients are keenly aware of its limitations), but today reliable information can show up anywhere through the “capillaries” called social media.

Quick Guide to Top Oncology Terminology

New approaches to diagnosing and treating cancer are being discovered and implemented every year. The rapid evolution of terminology and new treatment concepts can be daunting for those not working directly in the medical or research fields. As we approach the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which brings together 30,000 oncology professionals from around the globe to examine the latest oncology research findings, we compiled the following list of cancer terms that patients, advocates, non-medical journalists and others might find useful.

1. Cancer Stem Cells – Many scientists believe that every cancer has a limited number of cells that are driving and sustaining the cancer. These cells act as stem cells which can keep the cancer going over the long term. For this reason, many scientists are interested in understanding and targeting cancer stem cells for future treatments.

For More Information: Stanford Medicine Center

2. Immuno-Oncology – Using a person’s own immune system, or components of the immune system, to fight cancer is not a new idea, though this area of cancer research has increased in recent years and has received significant media attention. Immuno-oncology can involve stimulating a person’s own immune system to attack cancer cells, or creating therapies using immune system components, like antibodies, to help the body fight off cancer.

For More Information: American Cancer Society

3. Personalized Healthcare – Each individual’s cancer has a unique set of genetic information and every tumor has its own set of mutations and genetic alterations. As we understand and can test for more of these changes, we will be better able to fit a person’s cancer treatment to the characteristics of their tumor. This idea of tailored treatment for each patient’s cancer is the goal of precision medicine.

For More Information: NIHCancer.Net

4. Epigenetics – There is more than just DNA inside a cancer cell. We know that the genome of a tumor (DNA) is important, but how that DNA gets turned on and off matters too. DNA is the blueprint for what goes on in the cell. Epigenetics helps us figure out how those blueprints are turned into cancer cells and tumors. As we understand more about how the cancer cells turn on and off sections of their genome, new targets for cancer therapy are emerging.

For More Information: Keystone Symposia

5. Resistance – Similar to how bacterial cells can be resistant to antibiotics, cancer cells can become resistant to cancer therapies. This resistance can be present prior to treatment or can result from mutations in the cancer’s genome acquired during treatment.

For More Information: Annual Review of Medicine, Mechanisms of Cancer Drug Resistance

6. Adjuvant/Neoadjuvant Therapy – After receiving primary therapy, cancer patients are often given a second type of therapy, known as an adjuvant therapy, to increase the chance of long-term disease free survival by killing any remaining cancer cells that might have escaped treatment by the primary therapy. When treatment is given before the primary therapy to make it more effective, this is called a neoadjuvant therapy.

For More Information: Cancer.gov

7. Therapeutic Vaccines – Cancer vaccines work similarly to any other vaccine, boosting the body’s natural ability to protect itself through an immune response. In the case of a cancer, the vaccine attempts to generate an immune response against an agent that causes cancer, such as a virus like hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer, or directly against the abnormal cells that make up the cancer.A therapeutic vaccine is one that is given to a patient who already has cancer. There are currently many researchers investigating the use of vaccines to marshal a patient’s immune system to attack and kill cancer cells.

For More Information: National Cancer Institute

8. Nanotechnology/Nanomedicine – Nanoscale objects are constructs typically measuring less than 100 nanometers across. Nanotechnology is used in many industries including electronics, optics, and information technology, and has found applications in cancer diagnostics and treatment. It can be used to detect cancer cell abnormalities on very small scales, and there are currently many therapeutic nanomedicines under development that have the potential to be effective cancer treatments.

For more information: National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

9. Cancer Genomics – Almost every cell in a person’s body contains a full set of that individual’s DNA from the individual’s biological mother and father. Together, this DNA is called a genome. The full set of DNA that is found inside a cancer cell is called a cancer genome and it contains small changes that are passed from one generation of cancer cells to the next. These changes are responsible for making a cell cancerous rather than normal. Researchers are working to determine what changes turn a normal genome into a cancer genome, and how cancer genomes differ from one patient to the next.

For more information: National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

10. Molecular Diagnostics – Diagnosing and understanding an individual’s cancer is becoming an ever more precise and important science. New techniques and tools are arising to allow physicians to learn about a patient’s cancer in less invasive ways. Molecular diagnostics examine markers from proteins to DNA that define the characteristics of an individual’s cancer. These tools can point clinicians to the best possible therapy, and identify potential new therapeutic targets for researchers.

For more information: Drug Discovery World

ASCO 2015 promises to be a socially charged event with live coverage throughout the meeting. Get the latest news from ASCO by following @ASCO on Twitter and join the conversation with #ASCO15. AstraZeneca will be covering the event on Twitter and Facebook.

 3134502 Last Updated 5/15

Personalized Healthcare: Early Diagnostics, More Targeted Treatment

By Paul Hudson, President, AstraZeneca US and Executive Vice President, North America

Families will come together to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, the same day Women’s Health Week begins in the United States. This time of year, in particular, makes me reflect on the opportunity we have in healthcare to profoundly impact the future of women’s health. New advancements in diagnostics and treatment have the potential to significantly improve women’s health – notably among ovarian, breast and lung cancer patients.

At AstraZeneca, we understand the healthcare system is moving away from a singular approach for all, and toward treating diseases with an increased focus on personalized healthcare.

The promise of personalized healthcare is clear: It can enable doctors to more quickly identify which treatments will be most effective for individual patients based on their genetic makeup. Personalized healthcare means we can identify when a potential treatment requires an individualized strategy at an early stage and develop an integrated diagnostic plan. This helps get the right treatments to the right patients at the right times – even faster.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of oncology, where more effective and targeted treatments are helping cancer patients live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Since its peak in 1991, the cancer death rate is down 20 percent and the five-year survival rate has climbed to 68 percent.

5.8.15 img 3

Despite this progress, there is still much work to be done. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States, and breast cancer remains the most common cancer among American women. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system and is often diagnosed late because symptoms mirror everyday ailments.

5.8.15 img 2But there’s promise. For these women, it is vital that they understand their tumor type and hormone status so they and their doctors can tailor the most effective individual treatment plans possible. At AstraZeneca, we’re working side by side with leading scientists from different disciplines to better understand how complex data can be converted into innovative treatments. For example, over 80 percent of our pipeline across therapeutic areas is being developed with a personalized healthcare strategy and more than 30 programs have a companion diagnostic test.

For ovarian cancer in particular, up to 15 percent of women have a BRCA mutation, but nearly half of women with ovarian cancer and a BRCA mutation have no significant family history. Despite the fact that major guidelines recommend that all patients living with ovarian cancer be considered for BRCA testing, not all women living with ovarian cancer are tested. By collaborating with experts in diagnostics, we’re working to drive an increase in testing and a greater awareness of risks so that innovative treatments can be matched to those patients who will benefit most.

5.8.15 img 1We’re also using personalized approaches for testing lung cancer, which accounts for about 13 percent of all new cancer cases in the United States. There are currently limited options for treating patients with advanced or metastatic lung cancer. Targeted therapies and companion diagnostics may improve treatment outcomes for patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). AstraZeneca has pioneered targeted lung cancer treatments, and we are committed to advancing knowledge of patient management and diagnostic testing in advanced NSCLC.

There continues to be significant positive news in our fight against cancer in the United States and around the world. Taken together, increased education, improved treatments and advanced diagnostic tools are helping doctors make faster, more accurate decisions that are helping patients lead healthier, longer lives.