Merck continues rare breast cancer campaign focused on challenges for Black women
October may be over, but Merck is continuing to drive its awareness efforts around breast cancer — especially focused on the rare triple negative subtype and Black women who are disproportionately affected.
Actress Yvonne Orji, who also holds a master’s degree in public health, narrates the three-video docuseries at the center of “Uncovering TNBC” with each one featuring a different Black woman who has triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Orji interviews each one, touching on a range of physical, emotional and financial challenges in the disease diagnosis, treatment and beyond.
“I’m incredibly aware of the challenges and disparities Black women face in healthcare. Symptoms get ignored, risks go unrealized and diseases progress. This injustice has created a silent crisis — and we are here to give it a voice,” Orji says in the series’ trailer.
TNBC is an aggressive type of breast cancer that accounts for about 10-15% of diagnoses. However, Black women are around two times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to be diagnosed with it and more likely to die from the subtype.
Merck launched the effort in 2021, along with several TNBC advocacy group partners, with a concentration on digital and social media. To date, the campaign has notched five million social media impressions, along with 800 million views across all media, digital and social channels, said Ali Kresge, executive director of Merck’s oncology patient strategy team. It’s also counted 78,000 visitors so far to the campaign website.
The effort is intended “to make sure people are not only aware of the problem and what we’re trying to address with this campaign, but also getting them that in-depth educational effort information.”
Centering the real patients was important to Merck’s effort, Kresge said.
“Authenticity is key. People don’t want to be sold to — they want to be spoken to. And who do you trust more than a peer?” she said.
Another key part of the campaign is in the campaign title. As a rarer subset, TNBC is sometimes overlooked and even forgotten in the more typical breast cancer awareness month-related programs.
“We found in our research that they’ve felt very isolated and alone when it comes to the pink-ribbon campaign efforts of the past,” Kresge said, adding the campaign is “geared to giving them a voice.”
The campaign will continue to evolve through next year, she said, with more content in development, and an ongoing focus on Black women patients and “understanding and providing support to help overcome the barriers they face throughout their journey.”
While the effort is unbranded, Merck’s Keytruda is FDA approved for TNBC treatment in combination with chemotherapy as neoadjuvant treatment and then continued as a single agent as adjuvant treatment after surgery for high-risk early-stage patients.