Astellas moves the ball on prostate cancer awareness with #pass4prostate

Rugby clubs from the US and Australia are lending the pharma company a hand with the campaign.

NORTHBROOK, IL: Astellas Pharma is tackling prostate cancer awareness head-on with the help of rugby clubs from around the world.

Astellas, USA Rugby, and the Australian Rugby Union kicked off the #pass4prostate challenge this month to encourage conversations about prostate cancer and help get men to the doctor, whether by their own volition or the request of a loved one.

Astellas is planning to donate up to $125,000 to four organizations in the US, Australia, and Canada. Beneficiaries will be the Prostate Cancer Foundation in the US, Australian Prostate Cancer Research, Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, and Prostate Cancer Canada. Astellas has committed to donating $5 for every #pass4prostate challenge post on social media, said Tyler Marciniak, director of oncology communications and advocacy at Astellas.

The idea is for participants to post a video of themselves catching something and challenging friends to do the same, he explained. Consumers can also win rugby-themed prizes on pass4prostate.org.

"In the US alone, there are more than 220,000 new cases a year of prostate cancer, and 30,000 men will die," said Marciniak. "It’s the second-most-common cancer among men."  

The frequency of cases is higher in African-American males and men who have a family history of the disease, he added.

The campaign will run through the end of September, which is also Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. The timing also coincides with Astellas’ sponsorship of a rugby match between the US and Australia at Chicago’s Soldier Field on September 5.

Last summer’s viral fundraising sensation, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, played its part inspiring #pass4prostate because  it was "a compelling cause and something that was fun, interesting, creative, and easy to do," said Marciniak.

"That was a great effort for that specific disease – one that inspires a lot of different activities," he said, noting that Astellas is trying to take it a step further by making donations on behalf of participants.

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