Ipsen's cheeky new awareness campaign draws attention to serious but little-discussed side effects of prostate cancer

Henry and Lewis are two of the men featured in Ipsen's new awareness campaign discussing the side effects of prostate cancer treatment. (Ipsen and Liquona)

Despite the cheeky play on words, Ipsen Pharmaceuticals’ “Let’s Talk About the Hard Things" campaign centers on the very serious side effects of prostate cancer on men's physical and mental health.

In the awareness campaign, men who’ve been treated for prostate cancer discuss the side effects, including loss of libido and erectile dysfunction, and how it affected their lives. Entirely unscripted, the conversation aims to show the men's raw feelings and emotions.

The three separate videos feature a straight couple, Mark and Karen, who discuss how Mark's disease affected their marriage, while a second couple, Alphonso and Ambrose, talk about the taboo on discussing prostate cancer and its effects in the Black community. In the third video, Henry and Lewis, two gay men who met at a LGBTQ prostate cancer patient support group, discuss how that group helped them better communicate about and deal with the side effects.

With one man diagnosed every nine minutes in the U.K., and 86% of those experiencing erectile dysfunction and 79% loss of libido during treatment it was a problem that needed addressing.

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Ipsen worked with two U.K. prostate cancer charities, Prostate Cancer Research and Tackle Prostate Cancer, to create the three videos, now available to view on the Prostate Cancer Research website.

“We really wanted to highlight the taboo nature of things, so there are topics and conversations that men with prostate cancer aren't having—they find it hard to have that conversation," Dr. Manjinder Bains, medical director at Ipsen Pharmaceuticals, said. “We wanted to really open it up and make a conversation out of it, and to allow men with prostate cancer, their families, their friends to really have these conversations and really tackle that head-on.”

While prostate cancer doesn’t discriminate, the disease and its side effects are often kept quiet within certain communities. It’s these groups, where prostate cancer and its side effects are often ignored, that Ipsen specifically set out to address.

“We really wanted to have an engaging campaign to reflect the different communities, to reflect the different feelings and the different experiences that not only heterosexual couples are having but also communities from minority groups be that LGBTQA or Afro-Caribbean,” Bains said.

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Ipsen built the campaign on insights from a month-long survey of 361 men with prostate cancer. In terms of side effects, 86% of the men reported erectile dysfunction and 79% loss of libido, and within that group, 42% claimed their sex drive had "completely diminished." Another 73% suffered from incontinence.

Overall, 26% said the side effects took a toll on their mental health, but only 2% said they felt comfortable talking to family about their experiences.

The project launched in late May and has since racked up more than 30,000 video views and 60,000 impressions across social platforms, Bains said. It's also generated press mentions, with 24 different media reports in national broadcast, regional and local outlets.

While the "Let's Talk" campaign is unbranded, Ipsen’s drug Decapeptyl is approved to treat men with advanced or metastatic prostate cancer or with a high risk of progression to advanced disease.

Ipsen is also part of a clinical collaboration investigating cabozantinib (Cabometyx) plus atezolizumab for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.