Behind EXCEL: SGO Gynecologic Cancer Clinical Trials: What This Means for You

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In this series, we talk with the people who created some of this year’s most exciting EXCEL Award-winning work to find the story behind the project. For more stories behind this year’s EXCEL Awards, look for the August-September issue of Signature magazine.


Go here for a full list of this year’s EXCEL winners.


Society of Gynecologic Oncology won a Gold EXCEL Award for Digital Media: Video (Education) for Gynecologic Cancer Clinical Trials: What This Means for You. We asked Robyn Kurth, senior communications manager, to tell us a little bit more about this project.


Sidebar: What’s the story behind this entry?

Kurth: Laurel W. Rice, MD, 2017-2018 president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), made access to gynecologic cancer clinical trials the cornerstone of her presidency. Rice asked the SGO communications team to create a video for patients that would educate potential participants about the benefits of clinical trials while dispelling some of the myths.


During the scriptwriting process, we consulted with gynecologic oncologist members of our communications committee and patient advocates to ensure that the messaging was culturally sensitive, respectful of patient concerns, and appropriate for a diverse patient audience.


Sidebar: What makes this entry special?

Kurth: This video was part of a larger collection of patient-focused clinical trials initiatives headed by Rice. For her efforts, Rice was named one of four Ovarian Cancer Heroes™ by the CURE Media Group, which recognized individuals who had made exceptional contributions to improving the lives of people affected by ovarian cancer. Actor and cancer advocate Patrick Dempsey presented this award to Rice in a ceremony that coincided with the 2018 SGO Annual Meeting in New Orleans.


Sidebar: What notable hurdles did you overcome to create this?

Kurth: At the end of June 2017, we were given the assignment to create a video that included interviews with several patients and their physicians and have it ready by Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month in September. Knowing how long it would take to identify a diverse selection of clinical trials patients who would be willing to go on camera with their stories, I proposed a shorter animated explainer video for September, much of which was incorporated into the full-length program we completed in November.


The greatest challenge turned out to be the death of one of our featured patients during the production of this video, and we had to decide how to handle that. Ultimately, her family felt strongly about including her story and her gynecologic oncologist and I both agreed that we should not equate dying of cancer with failure or losing some battle, especially since clinical trials gave this young mother so much extra time with her family.


Sidebar: What was your greatest achievement during the process?

Kurth: It was a risk to take more of a documentary-style approach to covering cancer clinical trials as opposed to the marketing spin (“nobody dies here”) favored by most health care institutions. In the end, we took a very honest look at the promises and realities of clinical trials in a way that respected the viewers’ intelligence, and honored the contributions of the patients, doctors, and researchers who participate in clinical trials in the hopes of finding a cure.


Sidebar: What special techniques or technologies did you use to create this?

Kurth: Producing corporate-quality videos on an association budget can be a challenge. We shoot our footage with a consumer-grade Sony Handycam, but we adhere to the professional standards of pre-production, lighting, audio recording, interview technique, shot composition, and post-production. The result is a product that everyone involved can be proud of.


Sidebar: What lessons did you learn from this project?

Kurth: Sometimes the narrative you plan to tell turns out to be a different story. We are grateful for everyone involved in this project: the production team, patients, advocates, health care providers, and researchers who allowed us to honestly portray the experiences of our four featured patients, in the hopes that other women will participate in gynecologic cancer clinical trials for their own well-being and for the benefit of others who will be impacted by these diseases.



Watch Gynecologic Cancer Clinical Trials: What This Means for You, here.