There are several rifts in cancer care and AstraZeneca is aiming to fill them through a recently launched marketing effort with the NHL. 

For example, the company found that many Americans are unaware of, and not following cancer screening recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF). 

All the more reason, according to Mohit Manrao, SVP and head of AstraZeneca’s U.S. oncology division, for the drugmaker to launch Get Body Checked Against Cancer, its recent public health campaign. 

“We know that cancer screening is essential for the timely detection and early treatment of cancer,” Manrao noted. “But as this survey shows, Americans need greater education around their risk factors, cancer screening, early detection and cancer care more broadly.”

The drugmaker is running the campaign in partnership with the NHL and the NHL Players Association, to educate hockey fans around risk factors and empower them to talk to an HCP about available cancer screenings. 

As the campaign microsite notes, “Body checking gives players an advantage on the ice. Now it’s your turn to Get Body Checked Against Cancer — ask your doctor.” To facilitate such discussion, the site,, links out to an information page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on screening tests.

The effort was unveiled ahead of World Cancer Day on February 4 and came on the heels of a partnership AstraZeneca inked late last year with the NHL and NHLPA on the multi-year Hockey Fights Cancer. 

Organizers say it’s the longest-running professional sports program focused on supporting those with the disease. Since 1988, the effort has raised more than $32 million for its fund, which is run by the V Foundation charity.

The drugmaker also sponsored a “Hat Trick Challenge” for every time an NHL player scores three goals in a single game during the current NHL season — including the upcoming 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. By participating, the British pharma giant pledged to donate $5,000 to the V Foundation, with a goal of up to $500,000.

Partner agencies on the effort include Grey, as well as CMI Media Group, which is handling media planning and buying across U.S. paid media, and Omnicom Public Relations Group for comms.

For AstraZeneca, the NHL tie-up makes sense. As other research shows, rates of many different cancer types are on the rise among younger people. 

Additionally, the NHL’s fans skew toward the younger end of the spectrum. Nearly 50% of 35-to-44-year-olds describe themselves as either “avid” or “casual” hockey fans, according to a study by Statista, marking the highest sentiment score of any age bracket.

Meanwhile, oncology is one of AstraZeneca’s three main growth pillars, noted CFO Aradhana Sarin during a presentation at last month’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.  

For instance, best-selling drug Tagrisso recently set a new bar for early use in patients with EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Meanwhile, its antibody drug conjugate (ADC) Enhertu, for treating solid tumors, has been racking up label expansions. Both drugs have limited LOE exposure through 2030, Sarin pointed out.

Other results from AZ’s cancer survey reveal yet more care gaps. Younger people were more likely to say they would postpone cancer treatment until they can get their affairs in order, professionally and personally. 

In light of other recent research linking younger generations to having later cancer diagnoses, the company warns, any such lag could equal a lost opportunity to treat the disease until it’s progressed to a less curable stage.

Moreover, about one-third of survey participants flagged access to treatment as a top concern. Obstacles, such as transportation or financial and language barriers, can arise regardless of patients’ age, socioeconomic status or gender. Which makes it critical to lower barriers to optimal cancer care for all.

That, and initiatives like Get Body Checked that seek to increase awareness of cancer screening. Survey findings will help AstraZeneca skate to where the puck is going. It’s planning future initiatives to try and close gaps, with additional details due this spring.

“Surveys like this one provide us with important data to help better understand our key audiences and where the gaps lie,” added Manrao. “So these results are top of mind as we explore considerations for future programming, including those that are part of Get Body Checked Against Cancer.”

AstraZeneca said it will be launching a 60-second broadcast film, tentatively planned for April to coincide with the start of the NHL playoffs.

This story was updated to include additional details about partner agencies and future programming.

For a March 2024 article on City of Hope’s mobile cancer clinic on wheels, click here.