Direct-to-patient study recruitment proves a hit in breast cancer project

Reaching out directly to patients through the Internet, social media and other nontraditional channels, researchers have recruited more than 2,000 participants from across the country for a metastatic breast cancer (MBC) study project launched last fall.

More than 1,100 patients with the disease have volunteered their medical records and given the researchers the go-ahead to conduct next-generation sequencing on their tumor and saliva specimens.

The development was reported June 4 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

The project, whose overarching goal is to accelerate MBC research, began in Massachusetts with a website created by collaborators at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Participants include patients with long or extraordinary response to therapy, those with metastatic disease at initial diagnosis, those diagnosed at a young age and members of racial or ethnic minorities, according to a news briefing from the ASCO meeting,

“With this new approach we hope to empower patients to directly participate in research, regardless of where they live, and contribute to the effort to improve outcomes for all people with advanced breast cancer,” said lead study author Nikhil Wagle, MD, of Dana-Farber.

The project team plans to offer other researchers de-identified clinical and genomic data generated in the project—and to initiate direct-to-patient recruitment projects to speed research on other kinds of cancers.

“It may not be my team that makes the next big discovery,” Wagle said. “We want other researchers to look at this so we can increase our chances of shared success.”