Cancer doesn’t stop – even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. While daily routines and outlooks have changed for the greater population, the complexities of the cancer journey have increased during the past six months. The added emotional, financial, and physical strain from COVID-19 is only a fraction of the concerns racing through the mind of someone living through cancer.[1][2]

From my early days in the clinic as a pediatric oncologist in training to my work now at Astellas Pharma, where my team oversees the development of new medicines for hard-to-treat cancers, I’ve always strived to help people navigate the cancer journey by putting myself in their shoes and delivering care where the person is at the center. Now, more than ever, the healthcare industry needs to look for ways to help ease the journey for people impacted by cancer, both from a clinical development perspective and outside of medicine. This is why five years ago, Astellas Oncology created the C3 Prize as an extension of the company’s overall mission to address everyday needs and challenges facing people impacted by cancer.

the C3 Prize is looking for ideas beyond medicine that can help ease the cancer journey, including initiatives that can assist with the increased burden for people facing cancer due to COVID-19, as well as health disparities.

Understanding the need for non-medical cancer innovations
The Astellas Oncology C3 Prize is a global competition that gives people the chance to apply for U.S. $ 200,000 in grants and resources to advance ideas that make a big impact in the cancer community. This year, the C3 Prize is looking for ideas beyond medicine that can help ease the cancer journey, including initiatives that can assist with the increased burden for people facing cancer due to COVID-19, as well as health disparities.

At Astellas Oncology, we recognize that not only do people with cancer need medicine, but they also need comprehensive care through innovative technologies, support tools, services, and other ideas – all of which can be discovered through the C3 Prize. We hope the program will continue to spark developments in cancer care across the broader spectrum for the entire healthcare ecosystem – patients, caregivers, providers and the healthcare system.

How to share your potentially life-changing idea
As doctors on the front lines of cancer care, we witness firsthand some of the greatest challenges of the cancer journey and aim to put ourselves in patients’ shoes to provide the best possible care. These experiences have sparked the ideas of many C3 Prize past finalists and winners, who have been in academia and healthcare professionals, driven to make a difference for their patients.

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Many past winners have also lived through the challenges of cancer firsthand as a patient or a caregiver, fueling their passion to ease the journey for others. In fact, my Astellas Oncology colleague Mark Reisenauer, who leads the oncology business unit, conceived the idea for the C3 Prize when he discovered how difficult it was to navigate the cancer journey as a caregiver for his father.

The concept is simple: we all have the power to change cancer care. We encourage anyone who has an idea that has the potential to greatly impact cancer care to apply to the Astellas C3 Prize by submitting an application at

No idea is too big or too small
Past winners and finalists have been able to help those with cancer with ideas that provide new and innovative support for the patient. For example, Audrey Guth, 2019 C3 Prize Grand Prize winner, a cancer survivor, and mother of four established the Nanny Angel Network in 2009 after she found a gap in health care and social services for mothers with cancer and their children. She saw mothers choose between looking after their children and going for treatment. In part due to the Astellas C3 Prize, the organization has been able to continue to live out their mission despite COVID-19 – by delivering meals, providing virtual visits, developing a “Homework Club” to assist kids with schoolwork, and offering an online support group with a nurse navigator for moms.

Other innovations that have won the C3 Prize include a virtual reality video game designed to keep children with cancer active and informed, and a first-of-its-kind, easy-to-understand digital audio series about breast cancer. The commonality among all winners is their passion to make the lives of people living with cancer, their caregivers, and their loved ones, easier.

If you have an idea, we would like to hear about it. Astellas takes no ownership in the winning ideas; our role is to advance ideas that can make a difference by connecting them to resources and support. I encourage you to visit to learn more and submit your idea today. Submissions are open until September 28, 2020. Together, we can help change cancer care.

[1] Petzold MB, Plag J, Ströhle A. Umgang mit psychischer Belastung bei Gesundheitsfachkräften im Rahmen der Covid-19-Pandemie [Dealing with psychological distress by healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemia]. Nervenarzt. 2020;91(5):417-421. doi:10.1007/s00115-020-00905-0
[2] Shanahan L, Steinhoff A, Bechtiger L, et al. Emotional distress in young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: evidence of risk and resilience from a longitudinal cohort study [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jun 23]. Psychol Med. 2020;1-10. doi:10.1017/S003329172000241X

Featured image: Leah Werry receives the 2019 Grand Prize in behalf of Audrey Guth of the Nanny Angel Network. Photo Courtesy: Astellas Oncology/C3 Prize. Used with permission.

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