Genentech and the American Cancer Society look back on the 70s in PSA to de-stigmatize lung cancer and encourage screening

It was the era of bells, 8-track tapes, jelly molds and the Hustle – and a time when everyone seemed to be smoking everywhere.

In a public service announcement aimed at encouraging ex-smokers to ask their doctors about annual lung cancer screenings, drugmaker Genentech looks back to the days when cigarettes and ashtrays were ubiquitous. Old footage from home movie projectors shows carefree scenes from the 1970s – people dancing disco, playing pinball, driving around in their cars, cooking meals and enjoying family dinners in front of the TV – all with a cigarette by hand or nearby.

“If it was you then,” a voiceover proclaims. “Get your lungs tested now.”

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Transporting viewers “to a time when smoking was simply part of everyday life”, the PSA aims to encourage people to learn more about routine screenings “without making judgments about smoking history”, Angie Wilson, Senior Director of Patient Advocacy Relations for Roche’s Genentech, said in an interview.

The video, released in 60- and 30-second versions, ends in the present day with an elderly woman in a hospital gown undergoing a low-dose CT scan.

Wilson said the “pervasive cultural stigma” around lung cancer and its primary risk factor is one of the biggest barriers preventing people from getting screened.

“We understood from previous research that there is an implicit bias towards lung cancer, but we learned more [in recent research] on the societal stigma surrounding the disease and one of its main risk factors: smoking,” she said. “It helped us design a campaign that was partly to de-stigmatize lung cancer by acknowledging smoking as part of American culture at some point. on time.”

Genentech, which markets the $3 billion-a-year lung cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq and is Roche’s oncology powerhouse, has partnered with the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and d other health organizations on PSA and the larger “Screen Your Lungs” awareness campaign, which debuted in 2021 and continues this year.

He promotes new medical guidelines recommending annual low-dose CT scans for people aged 50 to 80 who smoke, have quit in the past 15 years, or have been a heavy smoker, defined as someone who has smoked one pack per day for 20 years. , or two packs a day for 10 years.

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The unbranded effort airs on TV and radio, social media and billboards and includes a website where people can take a quiz to see if they should get tested, as well a tool to find a test center near them.

He is battling Merck’s Keytruda in the lung cancer market, with the two hoping to boost sales of a disease that is by far the leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States, with nearly a quarter of a million cases expected this year. alone, with long-term smoking being the primary culprit in many of these cases.

Although this latest campaign does not mention Tecentriq, the drug, which was first approved in 2016, won landmark FDA approval last October as an adjuvant treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, which making it the first immunotherapy option for NSCLC early lung cancer. patients immediately after tumor surgery.

The “Screen Your Lungs” campaign is one of many awareness efforts Genentech has made over the past year to promote the importance of routine cancer screenings, which many people have postponed due to the pandemic.

Last March, he partnered with the American Cancer Society as part of its “Back to Screening” campaign to reverse this trend. And in December, she highlighted the benefits of screenings during her annual Cancer Screen Week campaign with cancer society, Optum and Stand Up To Cancer.

A survey published as part of this campaign shows how much effort is needed. Only 36% of the more than 2,000 adults surveyed in the United States believed that regular cancer screenings were essential to their overall well-being, about half said they postponed them regularly and almost 90% did not know to what age they should start screening.

It also found that black and Hispanic adults were less likely to get tested than white adults, with 75% expressing concerns about the cost and 63% saying they didn’t know how to start the process.

Based on this information, Genentech and its partners have included information about free or low-cost screening options and a cancer screening locator on the Cancer Week website, Wilson said.

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