Known for his work as the interior designer on the hit makeover show Queer Eye, Thom Filicia is now hoping to change people’s lives in another way: by partnering with GSK to roll out a campaign for myelofibrosis, a rare blood cancer.
Launched Monday, the Mapping Myelofibrosis campaign is raising awareness of the disease — which affects only about 25,000 people in the U.S.
The campaign website, mappingMF.com, features Filicia discussing his personal experience with myelofibrosis. Ten years ago, Filicia’s brother was diagnosed with the rare cancer, which causes bone marrow scarring and falls under the myeloproliferative neoplasms umbrella.
In video testimonials, Filicia discusses the difficulties his family faced during the lengthy diagnosis and treatment journey. His openness on the topic is all in an effort to reach patients who may be struggling with the disease.
Mapping Myelofibrosis makes Filicia the latest member of the Queer Eye cast to leverage their platform for a healthcare cause.
When looking at the primary goal of the campaign, Faris El Refaie, U.S. head of oncology at GSK, told MM+M the effort is intended to raise awareness about myelofibrosis, an area where the drugmaker has expanded its investments in recent years.
The effort spans back to GSK’s $1.9 billion acquisition of Sierra Oncology in 2022, which gave the pharma access to Sierra’s momelotinib. The drug, also known by its brand name Ojjaara, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating myelofibrosis patients with anaemia in September.
“When you have a rare disease like myelofibrosis, you tend to see gaps and needs within the patient journey, because they don’t get a lot of the attention that some of the larger tumor types might get,” El Refaie said.
In addition to delving into Filicia’s story, the Mapping Myelofibrosis website also provides educational videos about how to understand the disease’s symptoms as well as how to navigate diagnosis and choose the right care team.
The hope, El Refaie said, is to reach the wide spectrum of patients with myelofibrosis who are experiencing unique manifestations of the disease.
“If you chat with some of the physicians, they’ll say, ‘If you’ve met one myelofibrosis patient, you’ve only met one,’ meaning it’s such a heterogeneous disease, everyone is different,” El Refaie explained. “The unmet need we found is that every patient experiences different variable symptoms, and navigating the disease over time can be quite daunting. Patients feel like they’re in uncharted territory, they feel lost and isolated.”
Another priority is to ensure that patients are able to get connected to the right tools and resources. GSK wants to empower patients to have the necessary dialogue with their healthcare providers when it comes to mapping out an appropriate care journey.
“The use of a celebrity can help quite a lot in raising the awareness and generating the discussion over the dinner table later on,” El Refaie said. “Having a celebrity like Thom – who is so passionate about the disease, who is so authentic about why he’s involved – is just going to add to the overall benefit of the campaign.”
In addition to patient stories on the website, the campaign will produce podcast episodes about navigating life with myelofibrosis. El Refaie noted GSK also plans to build out the campaign in the future to incorporate new podcasts and additional features.
“It won’t be a static site that just sits there,” he said. “We’ll be looking to adapt this over time.”