When Bristol Myers Squibb launched its Survivorship Today campaign in 2019, it sought to focus on cancer survivors, a patient population that has often been overlooked.

This fall, BMS went in a new direction with the program by assembling a panel conversation moderated by spokesperson Sterling K. Brown, the Golden Globe-winning actor and star of the NBC drama This Is Us

The event served as both part of Survivorship Today’s on-going attempt to find fresh and compelling ways to share survivor stories as well as a response to some harsh pandemic realities facing patients.

“There’s a lot of focus on supporting patients through their treatment journey. Then, once they’ve come out the other side, there’s a sort of an expectation that you are cancer-free, you’re a survivor and you go on with your original life,” Catherine Owen, SVP and general manager of U.S. Commercial at BMS, says about the impetus for Survivorship Today. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are 18.1 million cancer survivors in the U.S.

“What we’ve learned is that the impact of cancer is lifelong and that there’s no going back to normality,” she continues. “This community is there to bring those people together to share those feelings of isolation, the changes in their mental and physical health, how they go back to being with their families again and how they can get back to dating and all the other things that they enjoyed.”

For Brown, his relationship with the program dates back to its launch in 2019, when he filmed one-on-one interviews with cancer survivors. 

Even as a Hollywood star, Owen says it was his ability to connect with these patients that made him an ideal host for a virtual panel discussion as part of the latest iteration of the program. Brown has cited the experience of seeing an uncle diagnosed with cancer before succumbing to the disease in 2004 as sparking his passion around the issue of cancer survivorship. 

“[Brown] is personally passionate about this and invested in the program,” Owen says. “The videos are only a small portion of the time that he spends with [these cancer survivors]. He forms genuine connections, and he is very invested in helping to tell these stories. He’s been great.” 

Plans to host a panel discussion around cancer survivorship had been in the works for some time when Survivorship Today decided to move forward with the concept. Holding the event in a virtual format was a step to ensure the safety of the four cancer survivor panelists amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This group includes patients with a range of different diagnose, including lung cancer, Ewing sarcoma, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and anal cancer

“You gain a different perspective when you have multiple people on a panel, so it’s something we wanted to try out,” Owen says. “We think it worked really well. We got to bring in great partners and we’ve actually already filmed another panel.”

Online, the Survivorship Today panel hosted by Brown has been a success, having been watched 3,200 times on Facebook and 2,100 times on YouTube since its launch on October 11. BMS notes that while the results are preliminary, it is already the most watched and successful Survivorship Today video on the company’s YouTube channel to date.

Additionally, the ongoing Survivorship Today series includes 20 stories from those in the survivorship community since the start of the program, along with healthcare provider and caregiver perspectives, which have garnered more than 1.3 million views on the website.

Owen sees the panel and other new programming from BMS as offering additional ways to reach the diverse survivorship community. She also says that the possibility of hosting a live event is being explored.

“The reality of living and surviving cancer is different for everybody. Everyone’s life doesn’t return back to the normal that it was, even if they celebrate remission,” Owen says. “We are hoping that survivorship today and the community that we’re building allows those patients to feel connected and know they’re not alone as they navigate ongoing challenges.”