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Microsoft partners with War On Cancer to improve access to clinical trials

Social media has the power to connect people across the world – now tech giants Microsoft are using this platform to help people take part in life saving research.

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War On Cancer

Microsoft has partnered with Swedish social media app War On Cancer to introduce a new feature which will help patients reach clinical trials faster.

The move could be huge for patients, with the app’s developers saying it has the potential to give cancer patients ‘one last chance to survive’.

War On Cancer is a global social media platform that is bespoke for those who are battling with or have been through the disease. 

Launched in 2017, it connects people who have endured similar experiences with the overall aim of keeping them happy and on top of their mental health.

Fabian Bolin, CEO and co-founder of War on Cancer, has had his own experiences with the disease and says it offers people comfort in their time of need.

“Our goal is to radically improve the wellbeing of everyone affected by cancer across the world,” he said. “It is a digital support group that is aimed at those who know what it means to go through the disease.

“We take a particular focus on mental health and users can share experiences and knowledge, as well as learning from experts on life with cancer and how to cope with it.”

“What now makes War On Cancer even more unique is our ability to bridge the gap between cancer patients and cancer research.”

The free-to-download app has been doing a lot of this in recent years, allowing professionals to conduct things like surveys on its users to gather accurate data on the impact of cancer.

This real-world insight is invaluable for those who work in the space as they look to develop better services to improve a patient’s wellbeing.

However the new partnership with Microsoft is expanding its capabilities in the area, with more of a focus on medical research.

The computer giants have helped develop the app’s ‘Clinical Trial Finder’ feature, which connects its users to relevant medical studies in their area.

A lot of these investigations are looking at innovative treatments for the disease, which can be crucial for those who have suffered poor prognosis.

This new feature is available in the US and Europe and can be a lifeline for those who are out of options with the disease, but also benefits the researchers themselves.

“The low engagement rate is a consequence of the complex and fragmented nature of clinical trials, and the fact that doctors cannot be expected to know of every live trial suitable to a particular patient,” Fabian said. “Doctors today carry the burden of this on a global scale.

“There are anywhere up to tens of millions of people being diagnosed with the disease and there are tens of thousands of trials taking place each year.

“What we encourage our members to do is take that list of trials to their medical team and hopefully we are able to find a clinical trial where they are.

“There are other medical trail-finders out there that have been built, but they are mainly targeted towards doctors and healthcare professionals.

“The problem here is that these professionals are overworked and don’t have time and resources available to use these tools.

“But the patient does and they can use the platform to help their doctors make the best informed decision on their treatment.”

War On Cancer users who are looking to utilise this feature are asked to input a range of data about their health and diagnosis.

This then matches them to suitable and available trials that are actively seeking participants, empowering patients to take control of their treatments.

Through the use of a band of artificial intelligence (AI) developed by Microsoft, the documentation accompanying each trial is scanned.

From here it can match its criteria to the data inputted by the patient, meaning they receive the cancer trials relevant to them.

Mathias Ekman, director industry solutions executive for healthcare at Microsoft Western Europe, said: “The issue of connecting patients with suitable clinical trials has been highly debated for some time now, including at several major conferences.

“We are proud to work with War On Cancer for this solution and happy that we, as a global company, can support meaningful innovation.” 

The app has come a long way from being a simple social media platform and that is largely down to the work of Fabian and the company’s other co-founder Sebastian Hermelin.

The pair came up with the idea after the former was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2015.

Fabian said this was a lonely time for him, which led him to start documenting his experiences on a blog.

Eventually this gained some traffic and he began receiving hundreds of messages from people about how reading it had helped them.

“After my diagnosis I had so many questions,” Fabian said. “I felt that my questions weren’t being taken seriously and they weren’t addressed. 

“The biggest trauma for me, and what felt like my toughest challenge, was hearing that I would have to go through 900 days of chemotherapy.

“So I needed another strategy and that strategy became social media, so I shared a post where I asked if people could help me find someone in a similar situation.

“In that moment I felt I had an opportunity, almost like a mission, to share my journey about what it means to go through cancer openly and truthfully.

“This sharing became my saviour from a mental health point of view and by writing everyday I activated a powerful coping mechanism.”

Fabian said he found this expressive writing therapeutic and that it normalised his situation to both himself, as well as his friends and family.

Changing this perspective on the disease was another key reason as to why he helped create War On Cancer.

“The image that many people have of cancer, largely due to the way the disease is marketed by some organisations, is that someone is about to die.

“That’s wrong, it’s not the reality.

“Because I wrote openly and fully about cancer it helped people feel at ease and the most powerful part was that feeling that my journey could help others.”

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