Going by social data, the most prominent topic coming out of this year’s ASCO conference was Vice President Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot, a White House initiative to “accelerate (cancer) research efforts and break down barriers to progress.” Immunotherapy, a focus of Moonshot funding that has generated increasing buzz online over the past year, was another leading topic at ASCO. Yet again, immunotherapies took center stage at the annual ASCO meeting,” said DRG oncology analyst Khurram Nawaz. “Our analysis of social media data reveals that lung cancer and melanoma dominated patients’ online discussions on this class of agents.

One way to understand the early successes realized from immunotherapy is through insights gleaned on social media -- in part because the data is inherently “real-time,” and because social media provides the largest, most unbiased source of patient opinions that exists. With the right methodology in place, life sciences companies can pivot across use cases and business questions in a repeatable and scalable way, analyzing things like patient journey, behavioral and attitudinal trends, efficacy, unmet needs and more. In fact, DRG’s ePharma Consumer® 2015 found that nearly two in five consumers use social media to access information about Rx from other patients, underscoring the value of these media for mining patient insights.

Key themes appearing in conversations mentioning ASCO on social media from June 3 through June 7. Social media sources studied include blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and mainstream news sites

For example, immunotherapy researchers could tap social data for answers to these questions:

  • What is the efficacy of immunotherapy across various condition communities (e.g., melanoma vs. leukemia, lymphoma and lung cancer?)
  • What is the emotional appeal of immunotherapy for patients who have tried other treatment strategies?
  • Can we determine which product attributes drive adoption/switching within immunotherapy (safety, affordability, efficacy, etc.)?

Total Efficacy-related conversation – 8768 posts; Total Safety-related conversation – 6713 posts

Patients are both sharing and consuming information on a regular basis in online communities we can analyze in great detail.

Here are three reasons to examine social media data when performing research on immunotherapy:


  1. Social insights allow marketers to assess multiple condition groups. Over the past 30 days, we can see that lung cancer, melanoma, and myeloma are the most prevalent cancer types referenced in online discussions about immunotherapy. We can see across condition communities using a repeatable framework to determine which cancer types are rising and falling in prevalence within immunotherapy discussion. Marketers and researchers alike can then drill into each of these condition communities to collect patient journey insights and assess treatment efficacy, unmet needs, etc. Pivoting across condition communities can then help validate the launch of new drugs to be used within immunotherapy programs that address a variety of cancer types.

  1. Social data is a compliment to limited real-world evidence. Social data has been proven an important source of insights at the brand, product, category and even audience level for many large pharmas. Since immunotherapy drugs are few (for now), and immunotherapy as a treatment strategy is still very new, social data can be used much as it would be for mining insights on rare conditions like SMA or Alport Syndrome, where researchers rely heavily on insights gleaned from online communities, families and patients. Social insights can help researchers understand the unfiltered, real-time opinions of patients and help them think about questions that may be harder to answer using traditional research channels.

  1. Social can expedite clinical trial recruitment. As immunotherapy continues to grow in popularity and more products are granted marketing approval, social channels can be used to identify individuals who may be considering immunotherapy treatment, enabling pharmas to speed up the process of clinical trial recruitment.


Want to learn more? 

Listen to our webinar: How Social Intelligence Can Drive Value for Life Sciences Companies

Molina's hunt to grab small MCOs expands growth into new markets

View Now