Prominent voices to help spotlight myeloma risk in Black communities

Radio host DL Hughley partners with Janssen on 'That's My World' campaign

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by Mary Chapman |

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Janssen and radio host and comedian D.L. Hughley are partnering to call attention to multiple myeloma in Black communities, with a goal of driving better patient outcomes.

The national campaign, “That’s My Word,” will provide information and resources specifically for African Americans — who are at a twofold higher risk of multiple myeloma — to empower Black communities and promote better self-advocacy for patients’ health.

“We launched That’s My Word to change the trajectory of multiple myeloma in Black communities because we know the impact of health disparities is exacerbated for people who are living with this incurable blood cancer,” Tyrone Brewer, Janssen’s president of U.S. oncology, said in a company press release.

The campaign expects to bring together patients, those at risk of the rare blood cancer, caregivers, advocacy groups, and healthcare professionals. It’s also enlisting help from prominent voices in Black communities, such as Hughley, whose experience with cancer in his family prompted him to take his own health more seriously.

“Cancer has touched so many of us, but we need greater awareness of diseases that are disproportionately affecting and killing Black people, like multiple myeloma,” said Hughley, whose father and sister had cancer.

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Campaign’s goal is to call attention to myeloma in Black communities

Hughley said his goal is greater awareness, and action.

“I am honored to work in partnership with the Black community through That’s My Word to raise awareness of critical information and encourage action in a way that can potentially save lives,” Hughley said.

He added, “I am so inspired by people who are living with this disease and who have become actively involved in their health decisions, caregivers who have experienced incredible loss yet push on, and healthcare professionals who are helping to address the complex relationship that our community has with the healthcare system.”

Delays in diagnosis and treatment, combined with unequal access to new and better therapies, have contributed to health disparities among African American myeloma patients, according to Janssen. Of the approximately 35,000 people thought to be diagnosed with the blood cancer each year in the U.S., 20% are Black individuals.

While myeloma is often diagnosed in people older than 60, it typically manifests in African American patients five to 10 years earlier. And while Black patients are less likely to develop aggressive myeloma, they are twice as likely to die from it because of its often-advanced state when it’s diagnosed, Janssen said.

However, studies also show that early diagnoses and treatment, plus care access parity, can lead to improved outcomes among African Americans.

Janssen also is continuing its “Multiple Myeloma Promises” campaign together with the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF). In that program, participants pledge to commit to gaining knowledge about myeloma symptoms and to being more proactive with their health, which is expected to promote earlier diagnoses.

For each promise made through the campaign at @thatsmywordMM on Facebook and Instagram, Janssen will donate a dollar to the IMF, up to $50,000.

“Multiple myeloma is too often still diagnosed late or remains undiagnosed altogether in Black communities,” said Joseph Mikhael, MD, IMF’s chief medical officer.

“While it’s important for patients to be vocal about what they are experiencing, it is equally important that healthcare providers listen to their patients to recognize the signs and symptoms that support prompt and accurate diagnosis,” Mikhael said, adding, “Through initiatives such as That’s My Word, we share a commitment to reaching underserved patient communities that can help result in better education and better outcomes.”

Cancer has touched so many of us, but we need greater awareness of diseases that are disproportionately affecting and killing Black people, like multiple myeloma.

As part of its commitment to eradicating racial and social injustice and their impact on public health, Janssen has pledged $100 million to invest or promote health equity solutions through its “Our Race to Health Equity” campaign.

“We are grateful for the partnerships we’ve built within the community because no entity can do this alone,” Brewer said. “We will continue to work toward a future in which improved outcomes are the reality for all patients, as part of our mission to reimagine care so that patients can redefine living.”

To participate in the campaigns, follow and use the hashtags #ThatsMyWordMM and #MMPromise on social media.