VML and Europa Donna break barriers with The Cancer Currency campaign

The powerful campaign has helped ensure funding and recognition for metastatic cancer

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


Europa Donna, the European Breast Cancer Coalition and VML Health have helped to ensure, for the first time, specific recognition and funding for metastatic cancer as part of Europe’s beating cancer plan.

Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is incurable. 20 to 30% of all breast cancer patients go on to develop MBC, while 10% are diagnosed with MBC from their onset of cancer. Yet despite this impact, many breast cancer policies and the subsequent support, budgets and investment focus primarily on prevention, detection and the early stages of cancer. 

This is why VML has been focused on changing the narrative to address the unique experiences of those with Metastatic breast cancer, using the engine of creativity to consistently change the narrative. With this Sunday (4th February) marking Breast Cancer Awareness Day, the Cancer Currency campaign underlines why it is so vital to raise both awareness and investment in metastatic cancer.

‘The most valuable currency isn’t counted in euros, stocks or crypto. It’s counted in years of her life.’ This powerful insight sits at the heart of the campaign, created so that women living with metastatic breast cancer will have their stories told and their value recognised. The universal vehicle of money is used to tell a story.

Five banknotes have been created which celebrate the stories of 5 women and the years they have lived with metastatic breast cancer. Designed by banknote designer Brian Thompson, who was the man behind the current US $50 and $100 bills, the banknotes mirror the unique identifiers of other currencies and were developed using the same design craft to retain as much authenticity as possible.

The women featured in the campaign presented their bank notes to Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for health food and safety, at Europa Donna annual conference. They called for urgent action to prioritise metastatic breast cancer on the policy agenda, campaigning for 4 specific improvements in awareness, data collection, treatment access and social and psychological support. In response, Stella Kyriakides announced the first specific funding allocation for metastatic cancer.

Europa Donna is now using The Cancer Currency campaign to call on legislators and policymakers across Europe to do more to address the disease as a health policy priority by implementing these four demands. Although The Cancer Currency campaign showcased the immense value of 5 women, sadly one of the women, Simona Ahcin, passed away from her disease last year, and never made it to the stage. To represent her life and part in the campaign, her sister and daughter joined the 4 remaining women, delivering a poignant reminder of the importance of time and speed of action.

Claire Gillis, CEO VML Health, explained: “We are privileged to work alongside such progressive campaigners in oncology. Europa Donna and these five ladies are inspirational, and we are united in our commitment and passion to improve outcomes for MBC patients. Putting it simply, metastatic breast cancer has never had the awareness or commitment it deserves. We need to change that, and we’ll use every creative bone in our bodies to make it happen.”

Marzia Zambon, Executive Director of Europa Donna, added: “There are significant gaps in healthcare policies and legislation for those living with metastatic breast cancer, with people unable to access critical support and treatment based on their needs. I am delighted with this fantastic result. Without doubt, the creativity behind the campaign coupled with our five wonderful ambassadors has helped to reach this landmark commitment from the European Commission. This is a long road, and we could not walk it without the help of our patients, members, and creative partners.” 

Creativity for change 

While World Breast Cancer Day is now over for another year, for VML the work of using creativity to change both the narrative and investment in Breast Cancer is a year round pursuit.

Last year the agency leaned on the creative power of AI to launch paintings of hope to highlight the experiences of women with breast cancer. Naxto Diaz, Global Head of Health Craft at VML, explained: “Paintings of Hope shows the more emotional side of AI. It also demonstrates the meaningful outcomes that we can achieve when creativity and technology combine for a purpose.”

The agency has a long legacy of investing in changing the narrative surrounding breast cancer. Sarah-Jane Barker, Chief Medical Office Lead, Value Communications at VMLY&Rx, the force behind the agency’s consistently genre-defying approach, says that her heart sinks when she hears the language that all too often accompanies any communication around breast cancer. “It is not a journey, it’s not a battle, it is not something you choose; you hear that fighting language, but when you actually speak to people you realise that it is not that simple,” she explains.

The fact that there is still no cure for advanced breast cancer means that in a narrative focused on a fight for survival, everyone loses. As Barker explains: “They don’t want to be defined by their disease or illness. They are still women with incredible value, they are still mothers and sisters and everything else in between.”

A belief that The Cancer Currency brings to life with both consistency and clarity.

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