The Power of Collaboration

July 12, 2016   |   Craig Strydom

Cancer has a nickname. It is often referred to as the ‘great imitator.’

It’s not hard to see why. That’s because it is not uncommon for people who have been treated for cancer to have been treated for other diseases first. Other diseases which were erroneously assumed to be the cause of those symptoms.

This is vexing for researchers who, when not fighting tirelessly for funding, fight tirelessly for a cure.

Confounding the issue is the fact that there are over 100 cancer types affecting humans today (and as many potential causes), reducing the possibility of a one-size-fits-all cure.

In addition, it takes on average twelve years to get a new cancer drug from the research lab, to the patient bedside. A lifetime for many. Too little, too late, for others.

It was exactly this frustration facing both the cancer research community, as well as the ultimate recipients of the research, the patients themselves, that led to the founding of Friends of Cancer Research by amongst others, Ellen V. Sigal, in 1996.

Revolutionary, yet Realistic Ideas

For over 20 years, Friends has been instrumental in the creation and implementation of policies ensuring patients receive the best treatments in the fastest and safest way possible, boasting successes due to its ability to convene the right people at the right time (especially challenging on the Hill), and put forth revolutionary, yet realistic ideas.

To assist in this cause, Friends turned to Blue Water for help with a new website design, intended to be as hardworking, as cancer research is complicated.

Blue Water went to work, leading a brand positioning exercise which resulted in the new positioning statement and tagline: Partnerships, Science, Solutions.

Friends of Cancer Research

This was followed up by Blue Water’s ‘agile’ development methodology, a process whereby solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams, allowing the agency to complete small portions of the deliverables in short two- to four-week long delivery cycles called sprints.

And since Friends has several audiences, each with a stake in the progress of a particular drug or treatment (including cancer, cardiovascular, infectious disease, and rare inherited disorders), a robust search component became an important requirement for the new website, as well as an interactive way to search breakthrough therapies, both for information, as well as a way to ascertain the status of each drug or treatment on the FDA continuum. These include ‘designation granted,’ ‘designation rescinded,’ or ‘FDA approved.’

Search Breakthrough Therapies

Blue Water solved this challenge with an elegant, expandable ‘search by filter’ function, allowing searches to include filters like ‘category,’ ‘name,’ ‘sponsor,’ ‘date’ and ‘status.’

A Bi-Partisan Solution

In 2011 and 2012, Friends led the development of the FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy designation, an expedited review pathway for drugs that show clinical evidence of superiority to existing treatments early in their development. The pathway was signed into law on July 9, 2012 as part of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act.

As a result, as of June 13, 2016 the FDA approved 49 breakthrough therapy designated products, and lists that there have been 415 total requests for the designation with 132 designations granted, meaning that one of the biggest treatment breakthroughs in the past five years wasn’t in fact a drug, but a law.

Blue Water is proud to offer its digital solutions to Friends, and the work it does to expedite the treatment of Cancer and other debilitating diseases—and ultimately the eradication of cancer, the ‘great imitator.’