Serge Messerlian, US President, Janssen Oncology, and Imran Khan, MD, PhD, Vice President, US Hematology Medical Affairs, connected to discuss how the organization’s mission to Reimagine care. Redefine living. inspires them at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and beyond.
Serge Messerlian, US President, Janssen Oncology (Messerlian): As we head into ASH, I am excited to present our latest data in multiple myeloma, leukemia and lymphoma, building on our long-standing commitment to studying treatment options for these conditions. I am also looking forward to reconnecting with the hematology community to listen and learn from others about how we can work together to advance the standards of patient care in blood cancers. Despite new options in how we treat blood cancers, patients still have unmet needs. This is what drives the urgency of our mission to Reimagine care. Redefine living. for the cancer community, today and every day. At ASH, we have the privilege to share data from more than 45 company-sponsored abstracts, including 11 oral presentations for five different medicines and investigational compounds. Additionally, there are more than 35 investigator-initiated studies of our medicines that help us understand their use in a variety of patient populations and situations, expanding our collective knowledge.
Imran Khan, MD, PhD, Vice President, US Hematology Medical Affairs (Khan): I echo your sentiments, Serge. The volume of data we are presenting is impressive and speaks to the depth and breadth of our portfolio. Janssen Oncology has a rich history in blood cancer, and we work every day to investigate new treatment options. We continue to look for more patient populations we can serve within and beyond our existing portfolio for leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
In multiple myeloma, our latest data represent the way we approach the disease from many different angles, in both the frontline and relapsed or refractory settings, through the development of cell and biologic therapies. These include data sets from investigational therapies, which I’m particularly excited about, and data from our portfolio of multiple myeloma treatments. We’re exploring the science further by looking at new combination regimens because there is no one-size-fits-all option for this disease.
We’re also presenting new data on combination therapies to meet the range of needs of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), including options that have the potential to give patients periods where they don’t have to take a daily medication to treat their disease. Patients with CLL, the most common form of leukemia,1 have expressed that desire and with a fixed-duration approach to treating it, we may now have the potential to deliver just that.
There are a lot of tools to treat people with blood cancer today, but we know there are still patients in need, which continues to drive us to learn more. We won’t stop because we haven’t reached a cure yet.
Messerlian: I couldn’t agree more. To be successful, and to continue to be a leader in the treatment of blood cancer, we must understand patients’ everyday experience, so we can innovate beyond the medicine to better address their treatment preferences and goals. For example, we are reducing the time it takes for patients to receive treatment, shifting the paradigm so finite therapy is a reality for more patients, expanding the use of our therapies, alone and in new combinations, and providing options for patients to receive treatment in the comfort of their own homes.
I’m proud of these new approaches, rooted in insights about our patients and portfolio. Imran, I know you also feel strongly about understanding how our medicines are used in the real world so we can continue to problem-solve for the blood cancer community.
Khan: One of the most important ways we learn from the hematology community is by studying real-world evidence, some of which we are presenting at ASH this year. We go beyond the clinical trial data to gather important insights about patient outcomes in a real-life setting so that we can advance the standard of care and further study challenges that arise. Another way in which we learn from and engage with the blood cancer community is by considering the needs of historically disadvantaged communities. We have several initiatives to address the lack of racial diversity in clinical trials — which is a problem because when medicines are approved, we won’t have data that shows how a particular medicine affects a certain population. Multiple myeloma, for example, is a disease where Black patients are disproportionately affected, but only represent six percent of trial participants.2 So, we developed a plan to address this in partnership with our Janssen R&D colleagues, hospitals, clinics, and doctors who predominantly serve Black patients. For one trial, we increased Black representation to 20 percent, which is a step in the right direction.
These are examples of how we used what we learned from the blood cancer community to shift our approach in how we study our medicines. Serge, would you share more about how we do the same in other areas within Janssen Oncology?
Messerlian: We strive to keep our patients’ needs at the center of everything that we do, and I feel strongly about the importance of speaking to and learning from the blood cancer community. In doing so, we’ve learned of some of these needs firsthand. For instance, many people with blood cancer don’t receive optimal care. There are a lot of patients who stop treatment too soon to realize the full survival benefits of their medicine. We hope to reverse this trend by encouraging more open, transparent conversations about treatment between clinicians and patients, and providing insights to help fuel the discussion.
This insight about patient experience with our medicines was instrumental in the development of one-on-one support programs for patients taking certain Janssen Oncology therapies. We always strive to support patients in meaningful ways beyond the medicine and to connect the dots for them in a caring and compassionate way. One of the ways we do this is through digital programs where patient advocates lead discussions with other patients to help inform and inspire others on their journey with blood cancer. This idea of listening and learning that we have been talking about is, to me, one of the most inspiring components of our mission to Reimagine care. Redefine living.
Khan: I am inspired and humbled by our mission, and by every patient and person that we are able to serve. When my father-in-law was diagnosed with a cancer, there was an investigational product which may have helped. It was then that I truly understood the real impact of what we do. While his cancer advanced too quickly, I remember his words to me — “maybe not for me, but for someone after me.” That stuck with me. At Janssen and as a research community, we are investigating treatments for patients, both today and in the future. We want patients to be able to spend time with their family, go back to work, see their loved ones, go to a wedding — simple things in life that they enjoy, great things in life. Often, new approaches and ideas in the fight against hematologic diseases are sparked by learnings and conversations that happen at meetings like ASH.
Messerlian: Thanks, Imran. And like you, I am also inspired to do the work we do because of a close, personal connection that I have to our mission. My father recently passed away after living with cancer for more than 40 years. He made such a point to live each day how he wanted; he was an accomplished musician, a humanitarian, a devoted husband, and a wonderful father. I want the same fullness of life for the patients we serve, whether someone is living with cancer for four months or 40 years. And we’re getting there. Research in the treatment of blood cancer — including from our own portfolio — in recent years has changed the options in the way certain blood cancers are treated. I’m proud of our history in blood cancer research that shows we will continue to be on the forefront of this fight. We continue to deliver medicines and tools that support patients, their families and clinicians who treat blood cancers every day.
To learn more about Janssen Oncology’s presence at ASH and the company’s commitment to patients, visit jnj.com/oncology.
1 American Cancer Society. (2021). What is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia? Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia/about/what-is-cll.html.
2 International Myeloma Foundation. (2021). How is myeloma different in African Americans? Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.myeloma.org/diversity/how-myeloma-different-african-americans.