Oncology DTC: Opportunities

IN SUMMARY: According to a Takeda Oncology report “for people diagnosed with multiple myeloma, there can be an abundance of information, which can lead to confusion around the next steps in their diagnosis and treatment plan. Particularly, there appears to be a disconnect between what they understand and what they want to know about the treatment journey that lies ahead. This knowledge gap can manifest feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in people with multiple myeloma, which is counterproductive to having open dialogues with their physician on treatment decisions. This is an opportunity to make a difference.

Last year, in market research, I heard cancer patients and caregivers talk about the confusion around trying to get credible health information including treatment options. Many people thought that the Internet had so much information they had a hard time sorting through and understanding it all.

The Takeda Report indicates “81% of physicians shared that they wished patients were more proactive in treatment discussions, but 87% believed their patients preferred that the physician tell them what treatment course to pursue rather than making a treatment decision together”.

The report continues “seven out of 10 patients (71%) surveyed said access to various information resources made them feel empowered. Most often, patients relied on the internet (specifically multiple myeloma websites [94%] and general search engines [92%] to find information about multiple myeloma). However, about half of patients (51%) surveyed reported challenges in identifying which information sources are trustworthy. That said, patients agreed their physician put them at ease (100%) and provided understandable explanations (96%).

Eighty-six percent of patients reported that they rely on their physician to help make decisions about multiple myeloma treatment, more than any other source. Additionally, nearly three out of four patients shared that they do not have difficulty staying fully engaged during visits with
their physicians.

Sharing resources and information and contextualizing it appropriately may help physicians keep their patients engaged beyond the appointment and ensure they are empowered during treatment discussions.


In order to better understand cancer patient needs you need to understand exactly what happens when a patient is first told they have cancer. In most cases, their mind is going in a thousand directions at once and they might not hear a word their doctor says.

Most will go online, and go online for a long time but the Internet doesn’t distinguish between credible and bad health information. Use Facebook, for example, to look for cancer groups and you’ll be bombarded with ads for supplements.

When I was at Lilly I developed a CD-ROM to be handed out by Oncologists for patients who were just starting treatment. It was a huge success because we spent the time and money to get it right including the use of patients who had undergone treatment.

Today CD-ROMs are all but gone but the concept of developing tools for cancer patients to help them better understand treatments and what they can do to maximize therapy is essential. Oncologists can’t devote the time needed to hand-hold patients who are often scared about treatments.

Oncology DTC needs to distinguish the key benefits of products in terms that patients will understand. Statistics, from the product label, don’t mean much as helping patients understand what the drug is doing and how it’s going to make them feel. Our research had shown that patient testimonials were extremely effective in this area.

Most Oncology product websites look like an ad from a medical journal which turns patients off. Of all the areas of eMarketing Oncology is perhaps the one health area that has little understanding of what online health seekers want and need. It’s time for that to change.