Oncology is a fantastic and curious beast. Seemingly every day, an email drops into my inbox, despondently revealing that Product X has failed despite promising Phase III results, whilst the very next moment my attention is dragged toward the trumpet call of an exciting new opportunity with Product Y that has arrived out of the blue: but which is now being propelled to greatness via fast track approval, and is set to change a treatment paradigm. Only last week, we heard about a new development that allows scientists to tweak genes in the body’s immune system using electrical fields, supporting the efficient and precise removal and adaptation of the body’s white blood cells to fight cancer.

Excitingly, the deafening clarion call of new fast tracked cancer treatments, such as BCMA and Kymriah, mean that we can expect to meaningfully changing our experiences with cancer in the near future, from both the patient and HCP perspectives; from learning to manage patients with a new treatment paradigm that revolves around new processes (CAR-T), or the switch of some agents from a metastatic to the adjuvant setting.

How, as market researchers, do we navigate and illuminate such a landscape: including the impact of new treatments and processes, and the ever-changing dynamics between treating HCPs as they jostle to establish their position in this new paradigm? It’s a challenging picture to capture, right? We need to understand not only the ‘of-the-moment’ reality relating to the care of patients today, but also how this space could look in the future: which HCPs will be involved when and where, and what this means for the treatment paradigm as a whole.

One of the ways in which HRW has addressed this is via the use of our Fusion Groups, which forms part of our Ecosystem methodology suite.

Fusion Groups help us to accurately understand the detailed dynamics and nuances HCP interact within a given system, such as within the framework of a buying process or patient pathway: and can help us understand how to communicate synergistically and effectively within this context.

The traditional approach when setting out to unpick a pathway would typically involve discussions with distinct groups of different HCPs to understand their perspective on market dynamics. Those insights would then be collated and stitched together, to build a landscape picture that may be a somewhat over-simplified picture of how stakeholders really interact or make decisions.

HRW’s Fusion Groups represent a different way of thinking: where HPC types are mixed within a focus group setting (a ‘Fusion Group’) or alternatively, a mixed duo. Although this is perhaps not always the ‘done thing’ in market research, we would challenge that view: as Fusion Groups allow HCPs to build their own individual experiences into the wider landscape that is being fleshed out from a multitude of different vantage points- such as Clinical Oncologists, Medical Oncologists, CNS, Pharmacists and Surgeons.

In a recent study we conducted in a skin cancer indication, we were able to clearly identify how the melanoma pathway (which our client had been using as an analogue to this condition) was in fact not representative of what was actually going on in the real world for this specific indication.

There are, of course, factors that we would take into account before recommending a Fusion Group approach, such as inclusion of IDIs to ensure the granularity of the pathway is not omitted; careful recruitment to ensure no one’s voice is lost; and expert moderation that folds together individual insights into an Ecosystem-style picture… but Fusion Groups can offer you a number of clear and compelling benefits; so let’s hear about them!

1. Immediate insight as to the dynamic functions of a group of HCPs; how they discuss patient segments, how they make decisions, who has the final say and who ultimately takes responsibility for patients. HCPs are able to interact in a format that closely represents an MDT, generating a more accurate read of the current space: that reflects the current thinking and challenges that are top of mind for your customers right now. In front of your own eyes, the landscape of different treating HCPs is brought to life in a cohesive picture, representative of the reality constructed from the views of the individual. In addition, compiling insights in this way allows for ‘self-policing’, avoiding the scenario seen in traditional market research where multiple HCP types overclaim their own role, with no one to challenge them…

2. Adding value to attending fieldwork; with the option to attend and view this methodology in action, key research decisions can be made in-the-moment: potentially challenging what was already considered to be a ‘known-known’ or driving the research in a different direction to reflect the insights generated by HCPs working together in the same room. No need to wait for HRW to build together the pieces – the jigsaw is put together in front of you behind a thin pane of glass!

3. Future thinking can be challenging, but as a mixed group it becomes a more efficient and fluid task with HCPs (from their differing perspectives) considering future scenarios, throwing up considerations, concerns, drivers and barriers as to what that future could look like. In the future there is so much to consider, and Fusion Groups provide one of the clearest opportunities to understand that train of thought as an ‘artificial MDT’ unpicks the thinking before your eyes.

Some recent applications of our Fusion Group approach in the Oncology space include patient profiling in prostate cancer, communications development in adjuvant bladder cancer, patient journey mapping in CSSCC and identifying the role of non-traditional stakeholders in the Oncology cancer patient journey.

Please do get in touch with us if you would like to hear anything more on Fusion Groups or about HRW’s dedicated Oncology team OR:BIT (Oncology Research: Business Intelligence Team).


By Kirsty Page

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