Lee Fraser, SVP, Science and Medicine, Digitas Health
As a new type of therapy, this requires a very different type of marketing effort. In the typical pharma space we focus on HCPs, patients, and payers — all as customers, often independently. With CAR-T, it needs to be different.
With CAR-T, instead of an informed physician writing a prescription for a motivated patient, treatment centers are selected and credentialed. Then physicians and HCPs at these centers are trained and educated, and the centers themselves become involved in marketing to patients seeking therapy. Currently only physicians at a limited number of centers can use the product, but with the extensive excitement around CAR-T, everyone wants to be involved. This is the opportunity for the brand to act as the connector of all of the stakeholders. The CAR-T brand helps create connections between patients, doctors, and centers across channels.
I think if this type of marketing needs to take place not as direct to patient or direct to consumer, but as direct to everyone. It uses a common brand narrative delivered across audiences in the service of creating connections — and a revolutionary development like CAR-T therapy requires this type of effort.
Dave Querry, president, Navicor Group
CAR-T is the epitome of personalized medicine, and the whole oncology world is rightly excited about it. As marketers, we want to build momentum around that excitement.
The challenge comes in tempering our excitement with the realities of its limitations. For one, while CAR-T therapies have curative potential for some patients, they are not for everyone. We need to help set appropriate expectations for both patients and HCPs.
It’s also critical that we frame the value proposition to address payer pushback against the high price tag for CAR-T that we’re already seeing. Additionally, we’ll be tasked with mitigating concerns around vein-to-vein time and scalability; we’ll need to assure clinicians that the therapy can be delivered beyond top-tier institutions.
Barry Schmader, chief creative officer, Elevate Healthcare
The intensity of interest in CAR-T therapies is a marketer’s dream — because the therapy has the potential to transform treatment of cancer and even to provide a cure. This is all very heady stuff, especially in cancers for which there has been limited progress in improving outcomes.
While this makes a compelling label, it is important to remember that we are still in the early days for this therapy. The indication for the first CAR-T therapy is restricted to a tiny subset of cancer patients — about 500 patients a year — and is not available to the vast majority of patients with cancer. As marketers, we must tread a careful path recognizing the importance of this groundbreaking therapy without creating unrealistic expectations, which, if not met, have a history of turning a marketing dream into a marketing lesson.
Nadine Fabish, VP, account director, AbelsonTaylor
With CAR-T therapy, the HCP, the patient, and their support network will navigate a multi-step treatment process over a series of weeks. Acquiring the patient’s own T-cells, transforming them into an active treatment, and returning the resulting therapy to the patient presents a unique opportunity for meaningful engagement with all parties involved.
This also creates a complex logistical challenge with many players. It’s personalized medicine in its truest sense, requiring the marketer to steward a seamless coordinated effort to get the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. On the heels of blockbuster anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatment successes, CAR-T represents a transformational change in immunotherapy — a single administration driving a lasting remission and bringing cancer treatment one step closer to cure.