Seagen and Genmab, already launching their cervical cancer therapy Tivdak, have also rolled out a new cervical cancer campaign aimed at boosting awareness of a disease they believe is too often forgotten.
Speaking as a 20-year cervical cancer survivor, or “cervivor” as the video notes, Tamika Felder says when she was diagnosed she was left asking, “What color is my ribbon? Where’s my 5K walk?,” referencing the common charity campaigns that have proved so successful in raising money and awareness for many cancers.
In recent years this has been especially true for breast cancer and its well-known pink ribbon, and the host of breast cancer marketing and awareness campaigns over the past decade that have looked to help turn the tide of the disease.
Seagen and Genmab, as well as Felder, want that kind of attention for cervical cancer: “See me,” she implores on the video. “CeMe,” says the campaign, which has its own YouTube channel, with Seagen also tweeting out Felder’s story.
The American Cancer Society recently estimated that in the U.S. in 2022, around 14,100 new cases of invasive cervical cancers will be diagnosed, with 4,280 women dying from the disease. While cases and deaths have fallen in the last half century, the disease has not gone away, and middle-aged women especially remain at risk.
The CeMe campaign aims to remind people of this deadly cancer and comes after Seagen and partner Genmab last September nabbed an accelerated FDA approval for Tivdak in patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer whose disease progresses while on or after chemotherapy.
With this green light, the drug became the only approved antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) for this cancer on the market and could reach $1.3 billion in peak sales. It made $46 million in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Tivdak has strong market competition, however, in the form of Merck & Co.’s blockbuster oncology powerhouse Keytruda, a checkpoint inhibitor, which the FDA approved last October as a first-line treatment for advanced cervical cancer patients who are positive for PD-L1.
This approval built on a 2018 green light for patients later in the disease course, again for those positive for PD-L1 expression.
There are roughly 4,000 cervical cancer patients in the first-line setting in the U.S., and it’s estimated that half of them will need second-line treatments, which is where Tivdak currently sits. The plan, Genmab recently told Fierce Pharma, is to move Tivdak into a first-line setting—just as Keytruda did—where the market is larger and Tivdak might also be used in combos, such as with Keytruda, to boost efficacy.
According to the CDC, cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the U.S. But in the past 40 years, the number of cases of cervical cancer and the number of deaths from cervical cancer have fallen significantly because of Pap tests that detect precancerous cells that can be removed before they turn malignant.
There are also new vaccination programs for children and adolescents to protect against certain forms of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is in 95% of cases responsible for cervical cancer. Given the drop in cases alongside vaccination and testing, there may be a false belief that we have the disease under control.
But older women who did not get the vaccination, or who do not have regular Pap tests, remain at risk.
Worldwide, cervical cancer remains incredibly dangerous and is, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the fourth most frequent cancer in women, with an estimated 600,000 new cases in 2020, with 342,000 dying from the disease in the same year.
The vast majority of these deaths happen in low- and middle-income countries, which have poorer access to tests and treatments.
by Ben Adams
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