Blood cancers are as diverse and complex as the people living with them. And while researchers have advanced our understanding of the intricate details of these diseases and the individuals they affect, there is still a significant gap in treatment and overall care for the estimated 3.6 million people living with blood cancer today.1
Informed by decades of innovation and success in the oncology space and an unwavering ambition to meaningfully improve the patient journey, AstraZeneca is aiming to fill that void, with industry veteran Gemma Satterthwaite helping to lead the way.
“We’re guided by a conviction to do what’s right for patients and driven by science to get there,” says Satterthwaite.
We spoke with Satterthwaite, global product leader in the Haematology Franchise for AstraZeneca’s oncology business unit, about how the company seeks to transform the entire care experience for patients with blood cancers.
Science focused. Patient first.
Founded on the pursuit of scientific excellence and firmly positioned at the forefront of world-class oncology innovations, the team at AstraZeneca now has their sights set on replicating that success within the haematology space.
“We start with the question: If I were the patient, how would I want to manage my care? This helps us approach patient care and the pursuit of novel treatments from a holistic perspective and serves as a reminder that every person will have different needs, expectations and fears around diagnosis and treatment.”
“We’re looking at novel treatment options, delivery methods, mechanisms of action – but also innovating in the ways we can combine. As we develop new platforms, we’re asking ourselves: How can we push the science further, closer to a cure?”
And with the ever-increasing access to data within the healthcare industry and beyond, AstraZeneca researchers have developed novel ways to leverage large datasets to improve both clinical development and patient access to trials and treatments. “We’re able to bring medicines to patients who may not otherwise have been identified as trial candidates. By using machine learning and AI, we can identify and match them to the right treatments.”
A community effort
Forging strong relationships with patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals and advocacy groups to further understand their priorities and address the unmet needs in haematology is top of mind for AstraZeneca.
In addition to gaining insights directly from patients in clinical trials as well through healthcare professionals and advocacy groups, the team is deeply involved in the blood cancer community. They collaborate with patient groups year-round and engage in educational initiatives to amplify the needs of patients, share the most recent research and even support policy efforts.
Satterthwaite says, “Our extensive clinical trial programme generates new insights across the blood cancer treatment continuum, which we make available to healthcare providers as well as patient groups. We’re here to empower patients with reliable information so they can make their own informed decisions.”
Catalyst for change
Like many of her colleagues that have been affected by the diseases on which they work, Satterthwaite shares a deep connection to haematology. “Unfortunately, about a decade ago, my family was touched by blood cancer. It gives you a very real, very stark perspective of the treatment options that are available. It allowed me to focus on ensuring that patients now have significantly more options… so that perhaps they may have a different outcome.”
As part of their path to redefining the haematology treatment paradigm, AstraZeneca is working to reshape the global healthcare environment. The company is taking an integrated approach, collaborating with governments, research groups and patient advocates to increase equity and sustainability.
“Novel treatments can’t be life changing— or lifesaving— if patients don’t have access or aren’t represented in the clinical data,” noted Satterthwaite. “Recognising and addressing systemic health disparities and social injustice is a fundamental part of working in this field. At AstraZeneca, we’re committed to helping improve the lives of patients and their families by achieving sustainable access to our innovative haematology portfolio.”
Given recent innovations in oncology, particularly over the last decade, Satterthwaite is confident that they can build on their successes in blood cancer to change the game in haematology as well.
“That transformation is happening in oncology. It's becoming an illness that you live with rather than die from. And with the existing unmet need in haematology, it gives us an opportunity to really shape that landscape and be a catalyst for change.”
Reflecting on her team’s drive for transformational change, she added, “That's a legacy that motivates me every day.”
- World Health Organization. Worldwide Cancer Fact Sheet 2020 (Incidence, Mortality and Prevalence by cancer site). https://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/populations/900-world-fact-sheets.pdf. Accessed November 2023.