Biolumina, the anti-cancer agency, is on a mission to dispel the myths of what it means to work in oncology. This therapeutic category comprising hundreds of different diseases is far from boring, solemn or serious. It’s incredibly exciting, inspiring and creative.
During a recent MM+M podcast, editor-at-large Marc Iskowitz sat down with the Biolumina leadership team — Kirsten Kantak, president and CEO; Diane Iler-Smith, chief creative officer; and Brenda Aske, chief strategy officer — to discuss what sets the agency apart.
Kantak kicked off the conversation by noting that oncology is “one of the most rapidly growing and changing disease areas with significant investment from a scientific and pipeline perspective from pharma and biotech companies.”
A changing field
Over the last 10 years, the medical community has made tremendous strides in oncological care. Today, patients with cancers including prostate, breast and lung have better mortality rates and access to therapies. Whether in the early or late stages of the disease, “people are living longer and longer, sometimes even decades in an advanced disease setting,” said Aske.
The pace of scientific advancements has been “incremental with frequent, huge step changes in between,” she explained. The complexity of those clinical breakthroughs makes it imperative for patients and providers to have access to the most up-to-date information “in a simple, understandable, human and empathetic way,” she added.
As patients become more involved in treatment decision-making, pharma can help “bridge the gap between people living with cancer and their care partners,” Kantak said. “We need to listen and engage patients in ways we’ve never done before to realize the full potential of today’s advances,” she explained. “We need to meet them where they are in terms of their knowledge and empower them to share their goals with their care team to get the therapy that’s best for them.”
Creative with purpose
Inspired by the brands it represents, Biolumina focuses on being “creative with purpose,” Iler-Smith said. “Every element of the creative art and copy is living in service of a bold idea and supporting each other in perfect harmony.”
For example, in preparation for the launch of a treatment for a rare form of ovarian cancer, Biolumina sat down with patients living with the disease to learn from their experiences. “It was so moving and inspiring to our team, because we were understanding how our work resonated with them,” she said. It was equally rewarding for the patients who “felt someone was finally taking their disease seriously.”
Integrating the changing clinical information into a treatment plan can be challenging for oncologists working across hundreds of disease states. “We can’t make the assumption that they’re able to keep up with all the advances that are happening,” Kantak said. Through brand stories, the agency can provide doctors and patients alike with “the information and the empowerment to make those decisions and have the right conversations.”
The only way Biolumina can do the work it does is by attracting and retaining great talent. According to a recent McKinsey study, people want to connect to the “why” behind what they do. “The ability to focus on oncology which affects so many of us gives a lot of people purpose,” Kantak said. Some teammates are motivated by the actual science, others by communicating that science in compelling ways. For a few, the work has personally “helped their loved ones navigate the cancer experience,” she said.
Biolumina is on a mission to impact the entire oncology community and to turn this phrase “just oncology” into a positive. “We work in just oncology because it’s the most fast-paced, creative, inspirational area that we can be involved in,” Kantak concluded.