Darzalex maker J&J taps celebrity British designer for story-based blood cancer push

Raising awareness of blood cancers such as leukemia, is J&J's goal with its annual campaign this time with a celebrity ambassador. (Motortion/Getty)

British home stylist Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has signed on with Johnson & Johnson to shine a spotlight on blood cancer and its symptoms. Llewelyn-Bowen was 9-years-old when his father died of leukemia, and he's joined with four patients to tell their stories in mini-films.

The “Make Blood Cancer Visible” effort runs through the month of September with digital, social media and public relations meant to drive earlier diagnosis. September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

The campaign began in 2017 to raise awareness of blood cancer symptoms after Janssen found that “a high number of patients see their GP more than three times before receiving a diagnosis." Some are even diagnosed in emergency departments.

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“Janssen determined that 2019 was the year to focus on driving earlier diagnosis of blood cancer. It was assumed that by raising public awareness of the symptoms and supporting healthcare professionals in the recognition of these, the campaign would drive earlier diagnosis,” a spokeswoman said via email.

The mini-documentary marks the first time Llewelyn-Bowen, who hosted the popular BBC television show “Changing Rooms,” has spoken on film about losing his father, she said.

Llewelyn-Bowen talks about the fact that blood cancers were "mysterious" back when his orthopedic surgeon father died and remain so today because they lack clear-cut symptoms. Other patients talk about making multiple trips to the doctor before finding answers, and failing to realize their symptoms were potential signs of a blood cancer, such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

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Janssen drugs approved to treat those types of cancers include Imbruvica, in a partnership with AbbVie, to treat certain leukemia and lymphomas, and Darzalex to treat multiple myeloma. Both are important products in J&J’s oncology portfolio—2018 sales of Imbruvica were $2.62 billion and Darzalex were $2.03 billion worldwide.