January 22, 2024

A Colorectal Cancer Convo That’s … Funny?

LEAD FROM BEHIND’s latest laugh-out-loud initiative highlights choice in cancer screening methods. 

Famous football player holding Cologuard kit
Most people don’t love talking about colorectal cancer (CRC).  
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance knows this. In fact, the nonprofit dedicated to CRC says that the No. 1 barrier to ending the disease is stigma surrounding it.  
The thing is, CRC is the third most diagnosed cancer and the third most common cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the United States.1 When caught and treated in early stages, CRC has a survival rate of about 90%.2 
That makes screening for the disease essential. Non-negotiable. Life-changing. Meaning, people have to talk about it.  
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s LEAD FROM BEHIND initiative comes at that conversation in a surprising way: with humor.   
Its latest campaign, which dropped in December 2023, stars a super-famous sports guy who throws a football for a team you’ve definitely heard of.  
In the video spot, Super-Famous Sports Guy appears in a locker room. He acknowledges the role of “sh*t talk” in sports and then invites viewers to instead sh*t on something for a good cause: screening for CRC. He mentions that CRC screening options include easy-to-use at-home stool tests and then demonstrates — cleanly — how Cologuard® works. 
(We’re not naming Super-Famous Sports Guy here because he isn’t a paid endorser for Exact Sciences. We were jazzed to see his support for CRC screening, though.) 
Exact Sciences makes Cologuard, the first FDA-approved, noninvasive, at-home stool-based CRC screening test for average-risk people 45 years or older. It analyzes a person’s stool sample for 10 DNA markers specific to cancer cells, and it also tests for blood in the stool. The technology detects CRC earlier — even in precancerous stages — than an ordinary stool-based test.* 
Exact Sciences was the presenting sponsor of the campaign.  
“We partnered with LEAD FROM BEHIND and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in support of their effort to reduce stigma and educate consumers about stool-based options like Cologuard,” says Jeremy Truxal, vice president of screening marketing at Exact Sciences. “LEAD FROM BEHIND is known for its irreverent approach to encouraging colorectal cancer screening, and this video sticks with that formula. The language and humor are designed to grab attention and drive home the point. 
“We have been thrilled at the positive response we’ve seen since this has aired,” Truxal adds.  “It’s generating conversation about screening, and that’s what we’re after.” 
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance aims to “make colon cancer famous” through the LEAD FROM BEHIND initiative. The latest campaign is the third in a series from the alliance and Maximum Effort, a creative agency co-founded by actor Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds provided a comedic voiceover for the spot. 

Advancing health equity 

Improving access to CRC screening involves more than reducing stigma and raising awareness. Some populations face barriers to CRC prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, including systemic racism, poverty, language differences, lack of insurance, environmental conditions, and geography, among others.  
“Our research shows that screening access varies greatly among Black and medically underserved populations, which directly impacts the risk of colorectal cancer,” says Kevin Conroy, chairman and CEO of Exact Sciences.  
With Exact Sciences as the seed donor, the alliance announced a new effort to decrease disparities that limit access to equitable screening and treatment. A pledge of $1 million in Cologuard screening kits will aid that effort, the alliance said in a statement. 
The fund will help make free or low-cost screening options available to more Americans in need, expand financial assistance for patients, enable research to identify causes and solutions to disparities, and connect those in need with high-quality screening and treatment options, the alliance said. 
“We applaud the Colorectal Cancer Alliance for creating a health equity fund and are committed to assisting its efforts to make screening accessible for all,” Conroy says. 
At Exact Sciences, we’ll play our part by working for health equity, nurturing these great collaborations, and continuing to talk … screening. 

Notes and References
1 Siegel, R. L., Wagle, N. S., Cercek, A., Smith, R. A., & Jemal, A. (2023). Colorectal cancer statistics, 2023. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 73(3), 233-254. https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21772

2 National Cancer Institute. SEER cancer stat facts: colorectal cancer. Accessed January 2, 2024. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/colorect.html

* Cologuard performance is based on a large clinical study of more than 10,000 patients ages 50-84 in which Cologuard found more cancers and precancers than an ordinary blood stool Polymedco OC FIT-CHECK test. False positive results can occur and should be discussed with your doctor and followed by a colonoscopy.3,4
3 Imperiale TF, Ransohoff DF, Itzkowitz SH, et al. Multitarget stool DNA testing for colorectal-cancer screening. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(14):1287-1297.

4 Wolf AMD, Fontham ETH, Church TR, et al. Colorectal cancer screening for average-risk adults: 2018 guidelines update from the American Cancer Society. CA Cancer J Clin. 2018;68(4):250-281.