Rapper Common encourages lung cancer screenings, clinical trials for Black community in Bristol Myers-backed PSA

Common will be Bristol Myers Squibb's campaign’s face and voice in print, digital, radio and out-of-home media ads, all part of a larger push to recruit more diverse clinical trial volunteers and tackle other long-standing health inequities the COVID pandemic laid bare. (Stand Up To Cancer)

Actor and rapper Common wants to give people the facts about the disproportionate rates of lung cancer in the Black community.

As he points out in a new PSA for Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), backed by Bristol Myers Squibb, more than 25,000 Black men and women are diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. each year, and Black people are more likely to develop advanced lung cancer than any other racial and ethnic group.

The Grammy-, Emmy- and Oscar-winning hip-hop artist calls on the Black community to help change those statistics, inviting them to learn more about lung cancer screening, research and clinical trials at the campaign website.

"Change is possible, and it starts with you," he says in the one-minute video.

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Common, who appeared in movies like "Terminator Salvation" and "Just Wright" and co-wrote and performed with John Legend the 2015 Oscar-winning best original song “Glory” for the film “Selma,” will also be the campaign’s face and voice in print, digital, radio and out-of-home media ads, including a billboard ad in Times Square, SU2C said.

The campaign is part of a larger push by the charitable organization, BMS and the pharma industry to recruit a more diverse pool of clinical trial volunteers and to tackle other long-standing health inequities that the pandemic laid bare. 

“The [lung cancer] disparities are alarming and concerning, and we wanted to raise awareness about the disease itself as well as the clinical trials available for people who have been diagnosed,” SU2C CEO Sung Poblete said in an email interview. 

BMS, which makes the immuno-oncology drug Opdivo, gave SU2C a $5 million grant last year to fund research and education efforts aimed at underserved lung cancer patients including people of color and those living in rural areas. 

Wendy Short Bartie, BMS’ senior vice president of U.S. oncology, said the campaign bolsters the company’s mission to ensure all people affected by cancer can equally benefit from the latest science and treatments. 

“That’s why it was a clear fit for us to continue our longtime support of Stand Up To Cancer by aligning on this effort,” Bartie said in a news release.

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Increasing diversity in clinical trials can also give researchers insight into how new treatments work in patients from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, Poblete said.

The campaign comes as BMS continues to go after new regulatory approvals for Opdivo in the growing non-small-cell lung cancer space, where it competes mainly with Merck’s Keytruda and Genentech’s Tecentriq.

Back in 2020, BMS picked up a key FDA nod for Opdivo combined with its checkpoint inhibitor Yervoy for previously untreated lung cancer patients whose tumors test positive for the PD-L1 biomarker.  

The company is now eyeing another FDA approval, this time to treat early lung cancer prior to surgery, after seeing success in phase 3 trials.