Keytruda maker Merck launches web series to shed light on triple-negative breast cancer and black women

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Maimah Karmo was barely in her thirties when she discovered a lump in her chest. Her doctor thought she was too young and healthy to have breast cancer. But Karmo knew her body – and she persisted until she received a biopsy that revealed TNBC.

Black women know that they have to stand up for themselves on many issues, especially health, says Karmo, and that this often makes the difference between life and death.

That is why the foundation she heads has joined forces with other breast cancer patients Charities and Merck & Co. to develop a web Documentation highlights the challenges of triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that disproportionately affects younger black women.

“If I hadn’t pushed for 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 in late August. The disease is also often treated with chemotherapy, and other drugs – like AstraZeneca’s PARP inhibitor Lynparza – are used in women with certain genetic mutations, according to the American Cancer Society says.

In July, Merck said that using Keytruda both before and after surgery to remove tumors had reduced the risk of disease worsening, cancer recurrence, or death in patients with early-stage non-metastatic TNBC by 37%.

RELATED: Olympian joins Eli Lilly to help offset the field for health inequalities in breast cancer

On the web series “Uncovering TNBC”, Yvonne Orji, an Emmy-nominated Nigerian-American who is best known for her role on HBO’s “Insecure,” sees and chats with three women who live at TNBC. The daughter of a nurse, Orji has a master’s degree in public health and experienced her own breast cancer years ago.

In three episodes on the Uncovering TNBC campaign website, patients Sharon, Tiah and Damesha share their resilience to the disease and discuss the health differences they face as black women and how their experiences have inspired them to stand up for other women .

“The ultimate goal is to increase education, awareness and action on triple-negative breast cancer to help people know what treatments are available,” said Karmo, and “that we can continue spending more time and must invest research money in this disease in order to have multiple interventions for color populations that are most affected. “

The project aims to equip women, especially black women, with the means and confidence to challenge doctors to tell them nothing is wrong. And it’s meant to help them know where to get TNBC help and information when they need it. This subgroup of breast cancer affects non-Hispanic black women twice as likely as non-Hispanic white women, and black women diagnosed with TNBC are more likely to die.

RELATED: ESMO: Merck touts Keytruda’s Breast Cancer Survival Victory as First Tecentriq on the Market to Leave the Ring

“We are working to overcome these barriers through community listening, creative storytelling that reflects the diversity of the experiences of TNBC patients, and new educational materials,” said Cristal Downing, chief communications and public affairs officer of Merck Awareness Raising open dialogue and action among women, their families, health professionals and the wider TNBC community through “TNBC Exposure” Campaign.”

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

Merck is not the only pharmaceutical company engaged in the fight against health inequalities in breast cancer. Eli Lilly has formed a new multi-year partnership with US Olympic gold medalist and US high jump record holder Chaunté Lowe and Susan G. Komen cooperation Addressing breast cancer health inequalities.

These differences have always existed, so why now? Aside from October being a breast cancer awareness month, most agree that the past two years of COVID-19 and witnessing the murder of George Floyd have brought greater understanding to the issues from outside the community that black and brown people face – especially when it comes to healthcare.


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