Amgen teams with NPR-famed StoryCorps to collect and share myeloma stories

Amgen and StoryCorps' "Blood Counts" campaign for multiple myeloma awareness kicked off at the annual ASH meeting last weekend in San Diego.

Amgen-maker Kyprolis bets it can raise awareness of multiple myeloma by sharing stories—and to do that, it’s enlisting the pros.

The Big Biotech has teamed up with StoryCorps, the oral history nonprofit of National Public Radio fame, to record and share firsthand accounts from myeloma patients, caregivers, advocacy groups, physicians and others as part of its “Blood Counts” campaign.

The initiative kicked off over the weekend at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting, where the story-seekers recorded seven conversations with “a variety of important voices from the myeloma community,” an Amgen spokesperson said via email.

“Through its channels, StoryCorps has increased the understanding of people with a disability or serious illness among 96% of listeners, making them the perfect partner for this initiative,” the spokesperson said.

Increasing that understanding around myeloma is important for a number of reasons, and one of them is that broader awareness can lead to earlier diagnosis, Amgen pointed out. Delayed treatment can “have a significant impact on the clinical course of the disease,” it noted.

Amgen is trying its best to reach patients earlier in their disease course on another front, too, and that’s by moving Kyprolis into earlier lines of myeloma therapy. But the California company recently hit a snag on that front when the product—which has underperformed expectations since Amgen forked over $10 billion for maker Onyx in 2013—flopped in its first phase 3 study in newly diagnosed patients.

That doesn’t mean all hope is lost, though, and Amgen certainly doesn’t intend to abandon its quest for a nod in the front-line setting, which boasts more patients who tend to stay on therapy for longer.

As company R&D chief Sean Harper told investors in September, there's another first-line Kyprolis trial underway at the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, which pits the Amgen drug against Takeda's Velcade, both alongside Celgene’s Revlimid and dexamethasone. The California drugmaker is already in talks with ECOG about using that trial to file for a label expansion down the line, and “we certainly are going to redouble our discussions on that,” Harper said.

Meanwhile, the stories collected at ASH will soon hit the Blood Counts campaign website (bloodcounts.com), and Amgen and StoryCorps plan to take the campaign on the road in 2017 with stops across the U.S.

Amgen is still working through “specific plans and locations” with StoryCorps and will share more details early next year, the spokesperson said.

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