Pictures tell the story in AstraZeneca's breast cancer photo-sharing push

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Pharma companies are no stranger to photography-based disease awareness campaigns. But there's something different about AstraZeneca's ($AZN) latest breast cancer photo campaign: The photographers are the patients themselves.

The British drugmaker has launched a photo-sharing campaign on Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites to get people talking about metastatic breast cancer (MBC), encouraging women with the disease to post photos of themselves with the hashtag #MBCstrength. It's an idea born out of feedback from women with MBC, who said they need to tell their stories and hear from fellow patients, AZ spokeswoman Meredith Hemler told FiercePharmaMarketing.

So far, patients have uploaded snapshots that send messages of strength. On Instagram, one survivor who has lost her hair holds a pair of signs reading, "STRONG BODY" and "STRONG SPIRIT." Another woman displays "STILL ME WITH MBC" and "STORY OF STRENGTH."

According to Hemler, the #MBCStrength campaign is part of a broader effort located at, a website developed last year with support and input from breast cancer advocacy organizations. There, women can learn more about metastatic disease and how to care for themselves as they live with it. And, of course, they can tell their stories in words and photos.

AstraZeneca has plenty of reason to highlight breast cancer, with four of its 7 marketed oncology drugs--including Arimidex and Zoladex--boasting indications to treat the disease. And cancer drugs are currently front and center in a pipeline CEO Pascal Soriot has tabbed for future sales growth. After batting away a takeover effort from Pfizer ($PFE) this spring, the AZ chief has pegged high expectations on a group of up-and-comers, including MEDI4736--a candidate in the red-hot immunotherapy field.

As far as using photography as an awareness tool, Big Pharma peer Novartis ($NVS) is all over it. The Swiss drugmaker recently launched its Skin Impressions campaign, which it says aims to capture the spirit of patients living with chronic hives and skin plaques. Last year, the company, which sells its meningitis B vaccine Bexsero in Europe, partnered with photographer Anne Geddes to feature portraits of children who had survived meningococcal disease.

Patient selfies have also made their way around the cancer world in an effort to raise money for charity. Back in March, the #nomakeupselfie trend took hold on sites like Facebook and Twitter as women posted photos to highlight the disease's risk factors while donating to a range of cancer-fighting foundations.

- visit AstraZeneca's MBC website
- see PMLiVE's take

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