Merck spotlights cancer survivorship in first podcast series featuring patients and loved ones

Katie Couric for Merck series on cancer during COVID-19
Merck extends its cancer awareness to podcasts, and its partnership with Katie Couric, shown above in a summer video series, talking to a newly diagnosed woman in NYC. (Merck)

When it comes to cancer awareness campaigns, survivorship typically doesn’t get the same kind of attention as diagnosis and treatment. Merck & Co. wants to change that with the debut of its first podcast series featuring survivor stories from cancer patients and loved ones.

During the four-episode series, seven different people discuss their personal paths to survivorship. From recovered patients to surviving spouses, each person details a unique journey through diagnosis and treatment to finally survivorship and what it means to them.

One of those survivors is well-known journalist, author and cancer advocate Katie Couric. She talks about the shocking colon cancer diagnosis of her then 41-year-old husband and her survivorship. That includes an on-air colonoscopy that inspired others to get checked and co-founding the cancer advocacy powerhouse organization Stand Up To Cancer. And it also includes the regret that she and her husband avoided difficult, realistic conversations before he died.

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Merck’s cancer awareness efforts have been dedicated to sharing those kind of frank—sometimes touching, sometimes heartbreaking—real-life patient and family experiences. The podcasts extend that mission.

“Through content that shines a light on patients’ and caregivers’ experiences with cancer survivorship, the goal of the podcast is to promote open and honest conversations among those in the cancer community,” Claire Mulhearn, Merck’s head of external communications and a breast cancer survivor herself, said via email. “Especially amid these times, we want to share content that will further bring the community together and raise awareness.”

RELATED: Merck extends Couric partnership for online series about cancer during COVID-19

The series is part of Merck’s ongoing “Your Cancer Story” awareness campaign, reimagined and rebranded this year from the original “Your Cancer Game Plan” platform begun in 2017. The new iteration includes a pandemic-related video series, launched this summer, that features Couric talking to patients and physicians about dealing with cancer during the COVID-19 crisis.

Merck's PD-1 immuno-oncology drug Keytruda continues to roll across the oncology landscape and accumulate indications; it's now approved for more than 15 different types of cancer. Sales in 2019 reached $11.1 billion, and while the potential for COVID-19 to dampen revenue looms, Keytruda sales through the first six months of 2020 topped $6.67 billion, an increase of 36% over the same period last year.