Novartis Backs Graphic Novel Featuring Teen With Rare Disease—and His Dog

October 4, 2015

Batman and Superman can add another superhero to their ranks at publisher DC Comics, and that’s Scott.

The teenage protagonist and his trusty sidekick–Turbo the toy dog–feature in the company’s latest graphic novel, which Novartis ($NVS) partnered to create for teens with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).

The Swiss pharma giant designed the comic to “help patients understand the challenges” of the rare genetic disease–“from seizures, skin lesions and tumors in vital organs to multiple doctors’ appointments–and empower them to talk to others about it,” according to the company. The new tome follows up on Turbo & Scott, a storybook for children suffering from the malady.

In it, the TSC community invites Scott to speak about his experiences at a conference, and Turbo comes along for moral support. “It can be tough sometimes to know that we’ll always have to live with TSC and always monitor for new tumors, but we, uh, don’t have to do this by ourselves,” Scott tells the audience. “There are family, friends and the TSC community that are ready to help.”

Novartis has its own connection to that community through Afinitor, a cancer blockbuster that also boasts U.S. and EU indications for treating patients with certain types of tumors associated with TSC.

And considering the oncology competition that’s headed Afinitor’s way, it’s not a bad time to be promoting the med in its other uses. With a kidney cancer nod likely on the way, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s ($BMY) checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo is about to make Novartis’ drug the “first casualty” of the “paradigm shift” toward immuno-oncology meds, Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson wrote in a recent note to clients. And it’s facing stepped-up pressure in breast cancer, too, thanks to Pfizer ($PFE) newcomer Ibrance; that challenger is threatening a market that accounts for just over 50% of Afinitor’s sales haul, Anderson noted.



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