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Cancer Survivor Launches Cancer Commons Web Site Focusing on Melanoma

Posted Feb 23 2011 12:00am

I was not familiar with the term "open science" until I came across an article discussing how a cancer survivor was using the concept to break down knowledge barriers about melanoma (see: Cancer survivor aims to raze treatment, research barriers with an app to enable collaboration ). Below is an excerpt from it:

[Cancer survivor and e-commerce entrepreneur Marty] Tenenbaum is one of a growing number of supporters of the so-called open science movement, which calls for greater sharing of research and the lowering of institutional, financial, legal and geographical barriers to bringing the best minds and data together to solve science's toughest problems. In its fledgling form, the Cancer Commons app integrates the existing data on different forms of melanoma and the most promising experimental treatments. Patients or their doctors input how far the disease has progressed, where it started and whether tests have discovered any specific genetic mutations believed to contribute to the cancer's spread. From that information, the app tells patients what specific cancer "subtype" they have as determined by an expert panel. They also learn what drugs have shown the most promise in treating that specific form of the disease and where clinical trials are being conducted that could allow patients access to that treatment. The app itself was built by CollabRx , Tenenbaum's for-profit health care startup. It's free for doctors and patients. The company would make money through pharmaceutical company sponsorships of different apps, though Cancer Commons does not endorse specific drugs. The data itself generated by the Cancer Commons project will be free and available for anyone to use, Tenenbaum says. At Harvard University's Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Keith Flaherty studies melanoma treatments and sees patients with the most advanced forms of the disease. He volunteered to help lead the Cancer Commons melanoma project, which he says lets doctors and patients plug into a complex collection of data distilled into a simple set of treatment options....The ease of sharing information among scientists and between nonscientists and professional researchers are two key developments made possible by the Internet that open science advocates say could speed discoveries. 

Here's some of the key features of open science that I copied from the Open Science Project web site :

  • Transparency in experimental methodology, observation, and collection of data.
  • Public availability and reusability of scientific data.
  • Public accessibility and transparency of scientific communication.
  • Using web-based tools to facilitate scientific collaboration.

Needless to say, I am very enthusiastic about these developments. The web is all about transparency, collaboration, and public access to information. All of these trends will make health and research data readily available to patients, enabling them to take more control over their health and help to guide them when they are struck will illness. Recall the four P's of modern medicine: preventive, predictive, personalized, and participatory (see: The Future of Healthcare and the Four P's: Preventive, Predictive, Personalized, Participatory ). The web is a destination where physicians, scientists, and informed healthcare consumers can meet, share ideas, and collaborate.

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