Cancer cases are on the rise with 10 million deaths recorded in 2020, according to the World Health Organisation, but focused partnerships between health-centric communities can spark further dialogue, faster care delivery, and play a role in significantly lowering these numbers that in turn could ease the economic burden.
Pfizer Gulf, the regional arm of globally renowned pharmaceutical and biotech corporation, is consciously strengthening its focus on cancer management to drive improved patient outcomes.
“There is a tragic unmet need that really drives our work at Pfizer. One out of eight men, and one out of 11 women die from the disease over the course of their life. In the UAE, we see that breast cancer is the most common type, representing 21.4 per cent of total cancer cases, according to statistics by GLOBOCAN 2020.
“This is a tremendous burden, but also something that is well aligned with our focus area to bring new innovative breakthrough treatments to patients globally and in the Gulf,” said Lindsey Dietschi, Country Manager and Cluster Lead of Pfizer’s emerging markets in the Gulf, which includes the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Yemen.
Establishing a focused cancer community
Pfizer is currently working alongside UAE-based cancer patient societies - Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP) and Emirates Oncology Society – and lending its expertise to help advance oncology care in the country. As part of its renewed partnership, it aims to encourage early detection and support cancer treatment in the UAE, besides exploring other screening activations.
“Our partnership with the Emirates Oncology Society comprises three components, starting with the areas of increasing scientific exchange, as it is an important factor to drive dialogue that is supportive of patients and new strategic partnerships,” she said.
The second area is to improve clinical decision-making by enabling support for screening services. As an example, Dietschi highlighted a blood test that can detect the BRCA gene mutation in the DNA, which signals the potential increased risk for breast cancer.
“Assisting screening services like that can help us get treatments to patients faster, which is critical in supporting the patient journey. And finally, we want to accelerate local evidence generation, because we know how important furthering that scientific dialogue, while being evidence-based, and how we can pursue and improve patient outcomes,” she added.
Briefly touching on the Friends of Cancer Patients partnership, Pfizer is focused on empowering the patient voice. “We know how important this is in our work to make sure we understand the patient's challenges, so that it can inform the approaches that we take in our innovation and in our collaborations with partners,” Dietschi said.
This is followed by a commitment to enhance the patient journey, from diagnosis and treatment to monitoring outcomes. “The third part is related to improving outcomes, because we know how critical it is to build awareness diagnosis and education, and really supporting the caregivers and loved ones, in addition to the cancer patients themselves,” she added.
Pfizer Gulf will continue to support Pink Caravan activations in the month of October and explore other screening activations to suburbs and villages as well.
Amplifying the prospects of digital transformation
Digital transformation is happening in every aspect of healthcare, Dietschi said, and from Pfizer’s perspective, there are growing opportunities to facilitate better patient outcomes, faster discovery of innovation, and even the simplification of processes to make things easier in its pursuit to deliver breakthroughs to patients.
“Through the lens of oncology, in particular, we have seen some developments in areas such as radiology, where we see a lot of promise with digital transformation. For example, we know the importance of a high-quality image in order to inform a treatment protocol and monitor disease progression, or hopefully, lack of disease progression. Being able to use AI, as an example, to power and improve decision-making to support patients is a growing trend,” she said.
Similarly, pathology has adopted a digital front, enabling analysis through a mobile device or a computer, courtesy of the rise in telehealth. Remote pathologists can now review imagery from any location to support patient diagnosis and monitor outcomes.
“At Pfizer, we see digitalisation as an opportunity to help us deliver on our mission, to innovate and bring breakthroughs to patients, with great urgency. We see it as a chance to make our internal processes the most efficient in order to enhance our potential to deliver solutions faster to patients that really need it. The burden we see in cancer solutions is something tremendous. And so, we feel a great deal of urgency to bring our best scientific expertise forward at the soonest possible stage to support cancer patients with new, life-changing treatments,” she said.
Pfizer has undertaken various strategies to bring treatments forward and make it available across the globe and the UAE. In pursuit of new innovation Dietschi said that Pfizer is expecting up to 13 new approvals of breakthrough treatments by 2025.
“This will continue to be a deliberate focus of the company. This is not limited to the scientific expertise we have already or the medicines we have available, but also applies to the solutions we hope to bring to these countries. We are excited about the possibilities, in our ability to make a difference, to delay the progression of disease, and ultimately, lead to cure,” she concluded.