Ain't No Mountain High Enough
A unique collaboration has seen patients, caregivers, clinicians and industry executives scale the world's most famous peaks to raise funds and awareness for multiple myeloma
Some of the best ideas in the world are born from chance encounters, and the hugely successful Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma (MM4MM) collaboration is one such serendipitous offspring.
It all started when a myeloma patient approached the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) with an idea to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as a fundraising effort. The idea grew to include CURE Media Group and Takeda Oncology, who recognized the storytelling power and potential to inspire and motivate the myeloma community. The program has now seen 110 people climb seven mountains including Kilimanjaro, the Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu, to raise awareness and significant funds for the MMRF’s innovative research that accelerates treatments for multiple myeloma patients.
The award-winning collaboration’s mission is threefold; raising funds for myeloma research, raising awareness of this rare and deadly blood cancer, and, inspiring, empowering and engaging the multiple myeloma community.
While participation in endurance events is nothing new in the world of charity fundraising, research showed that the ‘market’ for charity races and marathons was approaching oversaturation. Scaling epic mountains was a novel approach and one that mirrored the seemingly insurmountable challenges faced by those with multiple myeloma.
Each team of spirited climbers was built to create a microcosm of the myeloma community, including patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses, clinicians and others whose lives have been affected by the disease. To date the collaboration has raised over $1 million, 100 percent of which goes to the breakthrough research that is spearheaded by the MMRF. MM4MM is on track to raise $1.5 million by the end of the year. Next up? Mount Fuji in Japan and Everest Base Camp.
Collaboration was an essential part of the success of the project, says Alicia O'Neill, Director of Business Development and Partnerships at MMRF. “We aim to raise funds for myeloma research through our innovative research model. MMRF is the largest private funder of myeloma research in the world; our goal is to deliver a high percentage of funds raised to our research colleagues and, through the MM4MM partnership, we are able to achieve this. This collaboration is a beautiful thing; MMRF provides the patients, stories and the fundraising machine, which was the backdrop to the entire project, but all three partners have something to contribute and all three benefit.”
Takeda Oncology sponsors the program and boosts outreach efforts by supporting media relations, social engagement and project management, says Ryan Wade, Associate Director, Takeda Oncology Corporate Communications. “It was important to us that this is more than just sponsorship. We wanted it to be something that the entire myeloma community can get involved with, including our employees. Together we tackle the challenging trek, just as we are fighting multiple myeloma together.”
Programs such as MM4MM help reinforce the commitment of the pharma industry to patients, he says. “This project is important because it brings patients together with healthcare providers, nurses, caregivers, scientists, the MMRF and CURE Media Group on a single mission that raises funds and awareness for myeloma research.” In addition, he says, the collaboration supports MMRF’s mission to drive innovative breakthroughs that could lead to cures for myeloma and other cancers, expands awareness for this rare deadly cancer, and inspires and motivates the myeloma community.”
The program has exceeded expectations and has, importantly, provided myeloma patients with the opportunity to achieve their personal goals and dreams, adds Wade.
CURE Media Group provided and managed the multi-media channels that showcase MM4MM’s amazing stories. This includes a dedicated website, mini-documentaries and photos from each climb, GPS tracking during the treks and social media posts, as well as bios and blogs from each of the team members.
All parties have pledged to continue the project until a cure for multiple myeloma is found, says Marty Murphy of CURE Media Group. “Until a few years ago, life expectancy was just a few years; now, it’s three times that. There have been 10 new myeloma drugs approved by the FDA in 10 years – an achievement that is extending and saving lives. There has been great progress but we won’t stop until the word ‘cure’ is associated with this disease.”
In April, the project was recognised as the Most Valuable Pharma Collaboration at the eyeforpharma 2017 awards in Philadelphia. The panel of expert judges were unflinching in their praise. “The sheer merits of this initiative have several footholds, but the personal and profound commitment the company, advocate and patients have shown in achieving the MM4MM mission is beyond anything one can, or would even want, to measure,” said judge, Andre Cote, VP/COO at Lilly Canada. “The MM4MM initiative is calling for the betterment of one’s health, and of one’s humanity.”