Keytruda Maker Merck Launches Web Series to Highlight Triple Negative Breast Cancer and Black Women

Maimah Karmo was barely in her thirties when she found a lump in her chest. Her doctor rejected her as being too young and too healthy to have breast cancer. But Karmo knew her body and she persisted until she was given a biopsy which revealed TNBC.

Black women know they have to stand up for themselves when it comes to many issues, especially health, Karmo says, and that is often the difference between life and death.

That’s why the foundation she heads has joined forces with other breast cancers charities and Merck & Co. to develop a docuseries highlighting the challenges of triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that disproportionately affects young black women.

“If I hadn’t insisted on this biopsy, I wouldn’t be speaking to you today,” said Karmo, founder and CEO of The Tigerlily Foundation.

Merck’s Keytruda is currently the only immuno-oncology drug approved for TNBC after Roche’s Tecentriq lost the indication at the end of August. The disease is also commonly treated with chemotherapy, and other drugs, such as Lynparza, the PARP inhibitor from AstraZeneca, are used in women with certain genetic mutations, according to the American Cancer Society. said.

In July, Merck said that using Keytruda before and after tumor removal surgery reduced the risk of worsening disease, cancer recurrence, or death by 37% in patients with TNBC at an early and non-metastatic stage.

RELATED: Olympian Joins Eli Lilly in Leveling the Field on Health Inequity in Breast Cancer

The web series, titled “Uncovering TNBC,” sees Yvonne Orji, an Emmy-nominated Nigerian-American known for her role on HBO’s “Insecure,” profiling and chatting with three women living with TNBC. The daughter of a nurse, Orji has a master’s degree in public health and she experienced her own health crisis related to breast cancer years ago.

In three episodes on the Uncovering TNBC campaign website, patients Sharon, Tiah and Damesha share their resilience in the face of illness and discuss the health disparities they face as black women and how their experiences inspired them to advocate for other women.

“The ultimate goal is to increase education, awareness and action around triple negative breast cancer, to help people know what is available for treatment,” Karmo said, and “we must continue to invest more time and research dollars in this disease to have multiple interventions for populations of color who are most affected.

The project aims to give women, especially black women, the tools and confidence to challenge doctors who tell them there is nothing wrong. And it’s designed to help them know where to look for help and information on TNBC when they need it. This subset of breast cancer affects non-Hispanic black women twice as much as non-Hispanic white women, and black women diagnosed with TNBC are more likely to die.

RELATED: ESMO: Merck Brags Keytruda’s Victory Over Breast Cancer Survival As Market First Tecentriq Leaves Ring

“We strive to overcome these barriers through community-level listening and creative storytelling that represents the diversity of TNBC patient experiences and new educational materials,” said Cristal Downing, Head of Communications and Public Affairs from Merck. “We hope to be able to foster awareness, open dialogue and action among women, their loved ones, health professionals and the TNBC community at large through the” Uncovering TNBC “program. campaign.”

Merck and advocacy groups are promoting the campaign on social media, as is Orji.

Merck is not the only pharma to fight against health disparities linked to breast cancer. Eli Lilly has teamed up with US Olympian and US high jump record holder Chaunté Lowe and Susan G. Komen in a new collaboration to combat health inequalities in breast cancer.

These disparities have always existed, so why now? With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, most agree that the last two years of COVID-19 and the testimony of George Floyd’s murder have brought a better understanding from outside the community to the issues. that blacks and browns face, especially when it comes to health care.

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Virginia C. Taylor

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