Making Science Understandable and Accessible for Cancer Patients

By Andrew Coop, Vice President, Medical Affairs, Oncology

For those who have not worked in the fields of medicine or science, much of the information available about cancer and cancer treatments can feel overwhelmingly complicated. Patients and caregivers often hear about the importance of being informed, yet this is a challenge when educational resources seem to be in a different language.

AstraZeneca recently commissioned a survey with PatientView to better understand how the patient and caregiver communities view the landscape of cancer science communications. Reaching 124 patient and caregiver group representatives in 39 countries, we uncovered a need to simplify science information for individuals battling cancer and for their families.    

The majority of survey respondents recognize that cancer science is complex and changing rapidly, and 99 percent agree or somewhat agree that patients want to know how their cancer treatments work. More than 90 percent of patient organizations surveyed believe that the communities they serve will be better equipped to manage their cancer diagnoses with a fundamental understanding of basic cancer science, while 60 percent of survey respondents believe that cancer science is not well explained to patients and the public.

As an organization that regularly communicates the benefits and risks of our medicines, we believe these survey results demonstrate a clear call to action for all who educate cancer patients: make the information clear, understandable and accessible. The full survey results can be accessed via this infographic and summary report.

To help ensure that our science communications and educational efforts are rooted in a deep understanding of patients’ needs, our teams at AstraZeneca seek opportunities to bring the perspectives of patients into our organization.

To that end, this past March we hosted our first-ever Ovarian Cancer Patient Advocacy Day, welcoming several North American and international ovarian patient advocacy groups to our Gaithersburg, Maryland campus. Throughout the full day of sessions, I found the updates from the groups’ representatives on their important work to improve patients’ lives to be insightful. We provided a behind-the-scenes look at our research facilities and engaged in meaningful dialogue around how we can work together to improve the experience for women who are managing their ovarian cancer. Employees from departments across the company, including Medical Affairs, had the opportunity to talk with advocacy groups about the important work their organizations do and work still needed to support patients on their journeys.

We’re not stopping there. This year our Oncology Patient Advocacy team will introduce two additional patient advocacy engagement events, the outputs of which we anticipate will further support our ambition to continue delivering easy to understand scientific information to patients in a meaningful way that reflects the rapidly changing cancer treatment landscape. We are answering the call - of patient organizations, professional societies, academic institutions, government entities, and others to translate complex science into digestible, actionable information for patients, families and caregivers.