Knowledge

Dr. Maurice Hilleman: “The father of modern vaccines”

25.05.2023

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Vaccines are part of MSD’s history and are closely associated with Dr. Maurice Hilleman (1919-2005), the father of modern vaccine science. During his nearly 30-year career at MSD, he developed more than 40 vaccines for humans and animals. This legacy continues today thanks to our dedicated researchers.

The story of modern day vaccines began in 1796 when Dr. Edward Jenner inoculated 8-year-old James Phipps with cowpox as a way to protect him from smallpox. Jenner used the term “vaccination,” “vacca” being Latin for “cow.” In fact, it has been recognized for centuries that some diseases never reinfect a person after recovery. Smallpox was the first disease people tried to prevent by intentionally inoculating themselves with infected matter.

Dr. Edward Jenner inoculating 8-year-old James Phipps with cowpox.

Eight decades after Jenner published his findings, Louis Pasteur developed the first live attenuated bacterial vaccine. Attenuation is a process that weakens the bacteria or virus in a vaccine so it is less likely to cause disease, while still triggering an immune response similar to the natural infection. It would take many more decades for advances in basic and clinical research to make it possible for scientists to understand viruses well enough to begin developing vaccines that help protect against viral diseases.

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DR. MAURICE HILLEMAN

The scientists who made giant strides in the fight against viral diseases included Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin. Dr. Maurice Hilleman, who led MSD’s Department of Virus and Cell Biology from 1956 to 1984, also belonged to that distinguished group of vaccine pioneers. Credited with helping to develop more than forty vaccines, Dr. Hilleman’s passionate commitment continues to inspire scientists in medical research laboratories to this day.

Dr. Hilleman was born and raised on a farm in Montana. It was a hard life, but a farm background was a great foundation for his later work. “When you are brought up on a farm, you have a lot of general knowledge,” he said. After graduating from the University of Chicago with a doctorate in microbiology and chemistry, Hilleman chose to work at a pharmaceutical company instead of academia.

Despite his many accomplishments, including helping to develop more than 40 human and animal vaccines, Dr. Maurice Hilleman’s name is virtually unknown by the general public and press. Yet his impact on public health is undeniable.

"Since Pasteur, he's done more for preventive medicine than anyone else."

Dale C. Smith

Chief historian at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD

"His commitment was to make something useful and convert it to clinical use. Maurice's genius was in developing vaccines, reliably reproducing them, and he was in charge of all pharmaceutical facets from research to the marketplace."

Paul Offit

Chief of infectious diseases, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Hilleman's biographer

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan awarded the National Medal of Science to Dr. Hilleman, and in 1997, he was honored with The Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has called Dr. Hilleman one of the true giants of science, medicine and public health in the 20th century.

CH-NON-01259, 05/2023

Infectious Diseases

Addressing antibiotic resistance is more critical than ever. Here’s why.

Since their development, antibiotics have transformed health care and saved countless lives globally. But rising levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) make current antibiotics less effective.

18.05.2023

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Doctor talking to patient lying in a hospital bed

There’s no single or simple solution to the complex problem of AMR, but we’re committed to investing our expertise and resources alongside our partners to get much-needed antibiotics to those who need them most. Lives are at risk, and the time to act is now.

True to our company’s longstanding tradition of preventing and treating infectious diseases, we’re proud to commit to invest $100 million over 10 years in the new AMR Action Fund. Through this groundbreaking partnership of leading pharmaceutical companies, philanthropies, development banks and multilateral organizations, we aim to bridge the gap between the innovative early antibiotic pipeline and patients. New antibiotics are urgently needed. With this new fund for antibiotic research and development, our collective aim is to bring two to four new antibiotics to patients and physicians by the end of the decade.

Here are five key reasons to build on these collaborative efforts to address AMR:

01.

New antibiotics are urgently needed; however, there are relatively few in development.

AMR is a naturally occurring phenomenon through which bacteria build up defenses against antibiotics. The nature of resistance means that there is a continual need to develop new antibiotics so we can stay a step ahead of resistant pathogens.

MSD has remained committed to antibiotic R&D for over 80 years and brought forward new treatments each decade. However, major scientific, regulatory and economic challenges discourage innovation in antibiotics, resulting in a significant decline in the number of companies conducting antibiotic and antifungal R&D over the last two decades. Recognizing there is unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, MSD and others have suggested a series of policy reforms across several regions of the world. However, time is running out. We need collaboration from policymakers across the globe to help antibiotic innovation flourish for decades to come.

02.

Once new antibiotics are approved, they need to be used appropriately.

While developing new antimicrobials is important, slowing resistance to current medicines is equally crucial. Appropriate antibiotic therapy can play an important role in treating patients with resistant infections and preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics.

We must work together to implement evidence-based policies and programs that support the appropriate prescribing and use of antimicrobials. At MSD, we are making significant investments to support antimicrobial stewardship (AMS), helping hospitals around the world to develop and implement patient-centered AMS programs that are customized at the local level based on factors like epidemiology, clinical setting and resource availability. We also provide significant grant funding to support a wide range of AMS initiatives and collaborations.

Some of our global contributions to AMS:

Supported the development of several AMS Centers of Excellence throughout the world

Helped public health leaders effectively monitor and address emerging AMR infections, promote AMS and customize accepted AMS strategies to meet local needs

Contributed toward meaningful standardized patient safety outcome measures for US hospital AMS programs

Funded a round of Discovery Awards (small seed grants to help diagnostic innovators get their ideas off the ground and improve their chances of winning the UK-based Longitude Prize)

03.

We must track resistance trends and use the data to inform on prescribing.

To ensure that antibiotics are being prescribed appropriately, clinical treatment guidelines must remain up-to-date and based on resistance trends. Surveillance studies can assist in identifying these trends in pathogen incidence and AMR, and can also identify emergent resistant strains.

At MSD, we work with public health bodies, health care professionals and diagnostics companies to inform appropriate antibiotic use by sharing surveillance data. One of the largest AMR surveillance programs, our Study for Monitoring Antimicrobial Resistance Trends (SMART) program has collected approximately 500,000 bacterial isolates from 217 sites in 63 countries since 2002. This data can help to curb the development of AMR by informing adequate treatment plans and prescribing guidelines that ensure antibiotics are used appropriately.

04.

We need to think beyond human health.

The challenge of AMR is multifaceted, and we believe a One Health approach to creating policies is critical to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.

When it comes to animal health, vaccines should be considered a first line of defense against bacterial and viral diseases. By preventing diseases, vaccines can help minimize the need for antibiotics. MSD Animal Health is one of the largest manufacturers of animal health vaccines, supplying over 100B doses each year. We are also engaged in collaborative efforts to ensure new and existing antibiotics are effective now and in the future for all species.

Protecting the environment through responsible manufacturing is another key component of the One Health approach. To combat rising levels of antibiotics in the environment, we have committed over $100 million to ensure factory discharges do not present a risk to human health or the environment. We also worked with our partners in the AMR Industry Alliance to inform science‐based manufacturing targets to help ensure robust scrutiny of industry manufacturing supply chains.

05.

The time to act against AMR is now.

We have received ample warning signs of the dangers of AMR. With collaboration across the scientific community and policymakers, it is preventable.

We all have a role to play as we look ahead to prepare for the next health crisis. We know that without action, AMR will have significant global consequences. We must act now to put measures in place to ensure we have the antibiotics we need for our generation and those to come.

CH-NON-01235, 05/2023

Our team

Walking the Talk: Lunch & Learn about HPV

Prevention starts with us! To mark International HPV Awareness Day, we met with gynecologist Dr. Alina Staikov for a Lunch & Learn. During the meeting, we had the opportunity to learn about the impact human papillomavirus (HPV) can have on our health and how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from the viruses and certain cancers it causes.

31 March 2023

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MSD employees at the Lunch & Learn about HPV with Dr. Alina Staikov

In celebration of International HPV Awareness Day on March 4, our Leadership Team invited all MSD employees to a Lunch & Learn with Dr. Alina Staikov. She is a gynecologist committed to the fight against cancer and is dedicated to education, treatment, prevention and early detection of the disease.

What does cancer have to do with HPV? Human papillomaviruses can cause cancer in some cases. The good thing is, if you are informed, you can protect yourself from HPV, prevent HPV-related cancers or get early treatment for them!

At MSD, we are committed to the prevention and early detection of cancer

As one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in oncology, we don’t just focus on educating the public – we live by what we say. This is why we regularly organize internal events to educate ourselves further on pertinent subjects – in this case about HPV and how it impacts health. More than 50 colleagues from all Swiss subsidiaries took the opportunity to learn from Dr. Staikov and ask their questions.

HPV can cause certain cancers

Dr. Staikov presented key facts about HPV. Among the other information she provided, she explained that these viruses are common and even teenagers should know about them, because even they can become infected. She explained that almost everyone will come into contact with HPV during their lifetime and what can happen if the virus does not go away on its own. This is the specific reason why Dr. Staikov focused on the options of early prevention and detection. After her lecture, we were afforded the opportunity to ask questions, making the event interactive and vibrant. What is the message we took away? Read the next section!

Five facts about HPV that everyone should know

  1. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is common and can occur in teenagers and adults.
  2. People are infected with HP viruses through person-to-person contact involving the skin and mucous membranes.
  3. HP viruses can cause certain cancers and precancerous tissue abnormalities.
  4. The most common HPV-related cancers include cervical cancer, anal cancer, and oral and pharyngeal cancers.
  5. Safer sex and vaccination can help prevent certain HPV-related diseases.      
Illustration HPV Virus

Getting the information to the people is the most important thing. If they are not informed, they can’t make decisions and they don’t have choices.“

Dr. Alina Staikov
Dr. Alina Staikov
The stage at the Lunch & Learn about HPV
At the event
MSD employees
Applause for Dr. Staikov

The event was a great opportunity for us to learn as a team and live by MSD culture.

Would you like to know more about HPV?

More information for parents, women, and men

Discover more

Want to know more about cervical cancer?

More information about the disease and treatment options

Information for women
Information for healthcare professionals

Mutter und Tochter laufen nebeneinander Arm in Arm

CH-NON-02171, 04/2023

Infectious Diseases

Our commitment to HIV treatments and prevention through the years

We continue to work at the forefront of the fight against HIV.

11.04.2023

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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) continues to be a major public health threat. The virus can lead to AIDS.

Since 1985, our company has been engaged in research and development (R&D) efforts in the prevention and treatment of HIV. Over the years, our scientists have made significant discoveries that changed the way HIV is treated.

Here are some historical moments highlighting this effort:

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  • In 1982, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first used the term “AIDS,” or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, to describe the clinical syndrome caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Julie Gerberding, chief patient officer, recalls: “I started my training at the University of California at San Francisco at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic and took care of the earliest patients there who, in retrospect, we recognize had AIDS. It was a truly frightening disease. There were so many unknowns, including how it was transmitted.”
  • In the mid-1980s, MSD launched its HIV research program in response to what it perceived as a potential epidemic. Our scientists were among the first to discover and develop medicines for the treatment of HIV.
  • We were the first to publish the crystal structure of HIV protease, which is an enzyme which is essential for virus infectivity.
  • In 1992, MSD joined other pharmaceutical companies to create the Inter-Company Collaboration for AIDS Drug Development to research HIV treatments. By 1993, we were undertaking the biggest research program in our history, deploying more scientists to investigate AIDS than any other disease and testing tens of thousands of compounds.
  • The HIV/AIDS community continued to speak out for action. In 1995, Linda Distlerath, former executive director, Public Policy and MSD Research Laboratories Public Affairs, spent time reading letters sent from thousands of AIDS patients and activists urging MSD to produce a treatment for the disease quickly.
  • After years of study and development, MSD developed one of the first protease inhibitors. In 1995, prior to FDA approval, in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, patients and HIV advocacy groups, MSD offered a program that made its new HIV treatment available at no cost to selective patients before it was commercially available.
  • In 1996, the HIV treatment received FDA approval in a record-setting 42 days. It was an important early achievement in making HIV a survivable infection.
  • In 2012, The NAMES Project Foundation – with support from MSD – launched Call My Name national tour to bring attention to the distressing trajectory of the HIV epidemic in the Black communities in the U.S. The tour included creating new panels for the AIDS memorial quilt and educational workshops in 10 high-prevalence cities.
  • Daria Hazuda, VP, infectious disease discovery and chief scientific officer, MSD Exploratory Science Center has led the team working to identify new ways to attack and treat HIV.
  • In 2021, we entered into an agreement with Gilead to work together in the global HIV community in the fight against HIV.

CH-NON-01219, 05/2023

Our team

We are a Top Employer!

For the 11th time in a row, our company has received the "Top Employer" award.

17.01.2023

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Top Employer Award 2023

Every year, the independent Top Employers Institute  certifies organizations that are focused on putting their employees first and provide an attractive workplace environment that encourages professional and personal development. The certification is based on the participation and results of the HR Best Practices Survey. Important factors for winning the Award include above-average ratings in:

  • Human Resources Management
  • Compensation and social security
  • Career opportunities
  • Working conditions
  • Training and continuing education, and
  • Corporate culture.

MSD achieved excellent results in all survey categories

Employee engagement, their well-being, and recognition and rewards were rated as above average. One more top scorer is the area of Unity, which is comprised of Ethical Integrity, Values, Diversity & Inclusion and Work environment.

Judeke Frederiks
Judeke Frederiks, HR Director Switzerland

“We are honored to be recognized as a Top Employer in Switzerland once again. The award we received underlines our ongoing commitment to creating flexible working conditions and an attractive workplace. We are proud to be above benchmark in many areas, especially in employee well-being.”

Employee benefits

Since 2020, all new parents, regardless of gender, are offered 16 weeks with 100% pay within the first 12 months following the birth or adoption of a child. This policy is one of the most generous and inclusive in Switzerland, compared to the two weeks that have been legally required in Switzerland. In the same year, MSD instituted a new policy giving full flexibility to employees and their managers to determine how much they work remotely. In addition, MSD has put increased emphasis on working in digital ways becoming a more agile organization and more focused on growth and learning.

Diversity and inclusion are important to us

MSD actively promotes diversity and inclusion, for example through the many internal networks like the Womenʼs Network, the Next Generation Network and the LGBTQI Network. The mentioned initiatives are important milestones in line with its commitment to diversity, inclusion and well-being. More importantly, it reflects the company values understanding on how to achieve the best possible balance between private life, family, and career.

Want to know more about us and MSD as a company?

Read our stories!

CH-NON-01563, 01/2023

Knowledge

Things to know about cancer and the biomarker MSI-H/dMMR

Cancer patients need treatment that is most suitable for their specific disease. Biomarkers, biological characteristics that can be measured in blood or tissue samples, are an aid in finding the right treatment. MSI-h/dMMR is such a biomarker.

19.12.2022

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Cancer is more than just one disease. There are many types of cancer and the disease can occur anywhere in the body. It develops when healthy cells grow uncontrolled: they become cancer cells and destroy healthy tissue. Cancer cells can spread, break away from their place of origin, and affect other parts of the body (metastasize). Cancer patients need treatment that is most suitable for their specific disease. Biomarkers, biological characteristics that can be measured in blood or tissue samples, are an aid in finding the right treatment. MSI-h/dMMR is such a biomarker.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide

43’500

In Switzerland, about 43’500 people are newly diagnosed with cancer each year, about 17’200 die of it, and about 67% still live 5 years after diagnosis.

19’000’000

In 2020, more than 19 million people worldwide were diagnosed with cancer. Nearly 10 million people died of it.

What happens in the body when cancer develops

All cells in our body have certain jobs to do. Normal cells divide in an orderly way. They die when they are worn out or damaged, and new cells take their place. In cancer, cells divide uncontrollably and crowd out the normal cells. This causes discomfort in the part of the body where the cancer started. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body. Most cancers form lumps, which are also called tumors.

How do cancers differ?

Some cancers grow and spread fast. Others grow more slowly. They also respond to treatment in different ways. For example, some types of cancer can be treated well with surgery, while others respond better to drugs like chemotherapy, immunotherapy or a combination of different therapies. Often more than one treatment is used.

The role of biomarkers in cancer treatment

Biomarkers are certain biological characteristics that can be measured in blood or tissue samples. They help to better understand a cancer disease and can provide information for the choice of a treatment option. There are several biomarkers, MSI-H/dMMR is one of them.

  • MSI-H is the abbreviation for MicroSatellite Instability High. MSI is a change in short, repeating DNA sequences (microsatellites), that is often found in tumor cells of certain cancers. MSI-H cancer cells cannot correct errors that occur during DNA replication.
  • dMMR stands for “deficient mismatch repair”, which means “defective DNA repair system”. Normally, the DNA repair system intervenes when it identifies errors and repairs these cell changes. If this system does not work, it is called a defective DNA repair system (dMMR). A defective dMMR system can lead to microsatellite instability (MSI).

Tumors with high microsatellite instability often respond better to certain therapies. An MSI biomarker test can help to identify patients who may respond to such therapy.

How an MSI-H/dMMR biomarker test works

Every cancer is different. To help develop a treatment plan that is right for a patient, the doctor may order laboratory tests. These tests are used to evaluate the tumor for various biomarkers, including MSI-H/dMMR.

  • A tissue sample (biopsy) of the tumor is taken, and the doctor orders the test.
  • The doctor typically gets the results in 2 to 10 days.

Doctor and patient discuss treatment options based on the results and decide which treatment seems most appropriate.

CH-NON-00951, 12/2022

Our team

Volunteering? A point of honor for us at MSD

Did you know that MSD employees can use 40 hours of paid working time each year to volunteer in various projects? Here you can find out how this can look like.

31 March 2023

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Clean-up Days

Clean-Up-Days in Lucerne und Zurich

Every year, our employees support voluntary activities for their communities. The Clean-Up-Days in Lucerne and Zurich, organized together with the IG Sauber Umwelt (IGSU), are an example of such a volunteering opportunity.

Employees from all five MSD Switzerland locations were invited to roll up their sleeves on two days and help to rid the cities of Lucerne and Zurich of waste. A team of over 50 employees gathered to work together for this good cause.

«We have collected over 45 kg of waste, 24 kg of glass, 8.3 kg of aluminum and 3.3 kg of PET bottles. In total more than 80 kg!»

Désirée M., MSD employee at the Citybay location, Lucerne

Clean-up Days
Claen-up Days in Lucerne and Zurich
More than 80 kg of waste collected
MSD employees in action

Why volunteering is important to us at MSD

Volunteering at MSD means get involved for worthy charitable organizations on a voluntary basis during paid working hours. Another possibility is to contribute your professional skills to international projects within the MSD Fellowship for Global Health Programs.

Our volunteer commitment is a sign of solidarity. It aims to promote a culture of social interaction, improve the living conditions of disadvantaged people and benefit the community. Simply put, with our commitment we want to help and give something back to society and our environment. Those who volunteer also take advantage of the opportunity to network with other MSD colleagues and learn or improve skills that are not part of their everyday work routine.

«The Clean-Up-Days were a great experience and an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues from other locations.»

Rafael F., MSD employee at The Circle location, Zurich

CH-NON-02013, 12/2022

Responsibility

What we do to support Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. A month dedicated to those affected and to raising public awareness about the causes, early detection and prevention of the disease. Did you know lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide? At MSD, we are committed to fighting lung cancer and improving cancer care. Learn how we support Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

31 March 2023

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Lung cancer awareness

In Switzerland around 4,700 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year and about 3,300 die from it. Almost all new patients are over 50 years of age at the time of diagnosis. Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread. Therefore, they are often diagnosed at a late stage. If the cancer has already spread outside the lungs, the prognosis for patients is very poor. But because of new effective treatments, this is changing. Many people think a lung cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. However, over the past decade, new advancements have been made, which have led to more survivors and more hope for those facing the disease.

At MSD, we show solidarity for those affected and continue to push for progress in cancer care.”

Despite how common lung cancer is, there are still many misconceptions about the disease. That’s why we support various initiatives to raise awareness!

New website for lung cancer patients

Just in time for Lung Cancer Awareness Month we have expanded our patient portal MSD Gesundheit with information about lung cancer.
The new website provides detailed information on the main types of lung cancer, diagnosis and treatment options, answers to the most frequent questions and information on where patients can get advice and support.
In addition, lung cancer patients can download various checklists with questions to help them prepare for their next doctor’s appointment.

Visit the MSD Patient Portal

Collaboration with patient organization “Leben mit Lungenkrebs”

The newly founded patient organization “Leben mit Lungenkrebs” is the first platform exclusively for lung cancer patients and their relatives.
As lung cancer survivor, the co-president of the patient organization knows it from his heart: it helps to talk about lung cancer and break a taboo. Therefore, hosting an afternoon where patients and their families can connect and exchange and have a good time, is one of the first projects the patient organization is developing. We support this event as a co-sponsor.

Find out more

Expo50plus at Zurich main station

“What can you do to stay healthy?” That is the question for visitors at Expo50plus. The fair offers a wide range of information for people over 50, with numerous companies and organizations inviting visitors to find out about various diseases and how to prevent them. As one of the exhibitors, the patient organization “Leben mit Lungenkrebs” draws attention to lung cancer and the importance of prevention and early detection.
We provide educational material to be discussed with interested people at the Expo.

Learn more about Expo50plus and encourage family and friends to go!

Find out more

Facts about lung cancer you really should know

Lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer in Switzerland. Around 4,700 people are newly diagnosed with it every year, around 3,300 die of it every year. While anyone can get lung cancer, your risk goes up if you are over 50 years old and currently smoke or smoked in the past. Not smoking is the most important measure to prevent lung cancer.

Lung cancer is not a death sentence. There are several treatment options, but early detection is key and can save lives. If you have an unexplained, persistent cough lasting more than three weeks or shortness of breath, visit your doctor!

About our clinical research in Oncology

Did you know, MSD operates one of largest and fastest growing clinical research programs worldwide? With a focus on immuno-oncology it currently includes more than 1,600 clinical trials. Switzerland is part of this research program. Our team currently coordinates 29 clinical trials in 11 different tumor types (as of 07/2022). MSD is also one of the leading companies in the research of vaccines against preventable diseases, such as cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers. In Switzerland, we collaborate with various partners to advance innovative solutions in cancer treatment. In recent years, we have made an important contribution to improving treatment options for cancer patients.

Find out more about our work here.


CH-NON-01949, 10/2022

Our team

In October we support Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know breast cancer is the most common cancer in women? At MSD, we show solidarity with those facing breast cancer and do everything we can to support further advances to help fighting the disease. Especially during Breast Cancer Awareness Month October we support various activities to educate about the importance of prevention and early detection. Learn more about our commitment.

31 March 2023

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In Switzerland, around 6,300 women and 50 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Although new therapies have improved the prognosis of patients with breast cancer, around 1400 people still die from the disease in Switzerland every year.

“We stand united for the mothers, sisters, daughters and loved ones impacted by breast cancer and do everything we can to drive further innovation to help save and improve lives.”

As with many other cancers, the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chances of a cure. That’s why we support various initiatives to raise awareness!

Awareness campaign in Baden and Zurich

In October, we support the awareness campaign “Sag Nein zu Brustkrebs, sag Ja zur Früherkennung! ” (Say no to breast cancer, say yes to early detection) in partnership with EUROPA DONNA Switzerland.

On 4 days in October, events will be held in the pink container ”Pink Cube” in Baden and Zurich, where gynecologists will offer free consultations and breast examinations to interested visitors. Everyone is invited to visit the Pink Cube and take advantage of the free consultation and breast examination.

Find out more here

New website for breast cancer patients

Just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month October, we have expanded our patient portal MSD Gesundheit with information about breast cancer. The new website provides detailed information about the disease including risks and options for prevention, early detection and treatment of breast cancer.

In addition, the website offers answers to the most frequently asked questions about breast cancer and information on where affected people can get advice and support.

Find out more here

Pink Ribbon Charity walk 🎗️

A feelgood moment for our colleagues with more than 50 MSD Switzerland team members taking part in the Pink Ribbon Charity Walk. 

The solidarity walk celebrates survivors, remembers those that we have lost, raises awareness, and much-needed funds to work towards the vision of zero deaths from breast cancer.

Our collective total distance was 208 km! It wasn’t just the Oncology team members, we were there as a cross-functional MSD team showing our joint commitment to fight breast cancer together.

Facts about breast cancer you really should know

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, accounting for nearly one-third of all cancer diagnoses. In Switzerland, about 6,300 women and 50 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and around 1,410 people die from it each year. The rate of disease increases with age. Nevertheless, a quarter of all patients are younger than 50 at the time of diagnosis. Breast self-examination is one of the easiest breast cancer detection methods that every person should do. For women over 50, mammography is recommended to detect breast cancer at an early stage.
The earlier breast cancer is detected and treated, the better the chances of cure. That’s the message we want to get across to everyone!

About our clinical research in Oncology

Did you know, MSD operates one of largest and fastest growing clinical research programs worldwide? With a focus on immuno-oncology it currently includes more than 1,600 clinical trials. Switzerland is part of this research program. Our team currently coordinates 29 clinical trials in 11 different tumor types (as of 07/2022). MSD is also one of the leading companies in the research of vaccines against preventable diseases, such as cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers. In Switzerland, we collaborate with various partners to advance innovative solutions in cancer treatment. In recent years, we have made an important contribution to improving treatment options for cancer patients.

Find out more about our work here.


CH-NON-01897, 09/2022

Care

Survey on cancer care in Switzerland: Good ratings—But some work to do

19. Mai 2022

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Cancers pose a major challenge not only for those affected but also for the health care system. MSD has worked with the research institute gfs.bern to create a representative survey, the first of its kind, to take a detailed look at public opinion regarding the quality of cancer care in Switzerland. The survey showed that there is clearly broad approval of the care currently being offered, but did, however, identify opportunities for improvement in pre- and post-treatment care.  

According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (2021), there are more than 40,000 new cancer diagnoses in Switzerland each year, with one in five people falling ill with cancer before the age of 701. The good news: New cases do appear to be leveling off somewhat 1. Moreover, fewer people are dying from cancers than before1. Accordingly, there is an increasing number of people in Switzerland who are either living with cancer or have beaten it. They should all be receiving the best possible care. Apart from the actual medical treatment they receive, this care also includes preventive and follow-up care, as well as social and psychological support. A wide-ranging representative survey commissioned by MSD and conducted by gfs.bern aimed to find out how the Swiss public perceives the quality of cancer care.

Good Ratings for Cancer Patient Care

First of all, the Swiss public takes an active interest in health care policy. For example, over 80 percent of those surveyed said that they were interested in health care issues. Almost 90 percent viewed the quality of the care provided to cancer patients as either good, very good, or excellent. This positive endorsement was even clearer among those personally affected by cancer, with an approval rating of 95 percent. The personal experiences of those receiving treatment for their disease underline the value of this extraordinarily good rating. The key factors were primarily the good health care system in Switzerland, the broad range of services offered, the good care provided by staff, the quality of the facilities, access to treatment, and the ease of information sharing. Survey respondents rated their hospital experiences particularly highly. Thus, about 80 percent of survey subjects expressed a favorable opinion regarding the care provided by doctors and nurses in hospitals, while a substantial majority were also satisfied with the medications used for treatment. Only a few respondents found fault with the treatments provided or the quality of care. The overwhelming majority (85%) would choose their selected treatment pathway again.

Action Required on Cancer Prevention and Early Diagnosis

However, the survey also clearly shows that some areas require further action. Of all those surveyed, about 15 percent were dissatisfied with early cancer detection, with the same percentage dissatisfied with cancer prevention and coordination. One in five would have been happy to see family members acting as caregivers receive better support. Nearly one quarter of all respondents could also conceive that psychological support for patients and their families could be better. Among those personally impacted by cancer, the number who would have liked earlier information about prevention was as high as 36 percent. About half of them were unhappy about the time of diagnosis. Thus, 47 percent would have been happier if their cancer had been detected earlier. The COVID-19 pandemic also left its mark. For example, treatments constantly needed to be postponed. While almost half of patients were satisfied with the services provided by the specialists treating them, some family members felt that adequate medical care was lacking during the pandemic.

Conversely, the considerable efforts undertaken to research cancer were appreciated by the Swiss public. In the survey, a clear majority of 57 percent had faith in the progress being made in cancer research over the past five years (often, however, without being able to describe this progress in more detail), while only a quarter of those surveyed believed that there had been no or hardly any scientific discoveries recently. Over half of respondents were also optimistic about cancers being completely curable in the future.

Calls for a New Cancer Strategy

Only a few of those surveyed were aware of the “National Anti-Cancer Strategy,” including those who were affected by cancer themselves. Having been told about it, most did, however, state that a new national cancer initiative was important to them. Switzerland is currently the only European country without a national cancer strategy. Seventy-two percent of the respondents would participate in any possible consultations about this kind of legal initiative. A new national cancer initiative could count on a high level of approval, especially among women, people with a strong interest in health policy, and those personally affected by cancer. Almost all of those surveyed believed that a cancer initiative could save money in the long term and that early cancer detection and prevention should be supported, but also that coordination between the actors involved and the care provided to those affected by cancer are in need of improvement. However, most respondents did not believe that cancer had any special role in comparison to the many other serious illnesses that affect people. Thus, according to the majority of those surveyed, cancers should not be given any special status in the constitution.

The Survey

The representative survey on cancer patient care in Switzerland was commissioned by MSD and conducted by gfs.bern and involved the detailed questioning of 1,510 randomly selected people throughout Switzerland via an online questionnaire or telephone interview at the end of last year (November/December 2021). Three quarters of subjects reported that a person close to them, or at least an acquaintance, had been or was currently affected by cancer. In total, eleven percent (136 people) had had personal experience with cancer themselves, while three percent were suffering from cancer at the time of the survey. The patients had undergone surgery (76%), or had received chemotherapy (32%), radiation therapy (29%), targeted therapy (18%), hormone therapy (15%), alternative therapy (14%), or immunotherapy (11%). Nine out of ten sufferers reported that they had generally complied with the treatment requirements.

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