Health 2.0: How Can Technology Help Cancer Patients & Survivors?

23rd January 2016

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Yesterday MSP hosted the first Health 2.0 Manchester Meetup of 2016 in Greenheys. Health 2.0 MCR is a meetup group of developers, entrepreneurs, academics, physicians, pharmacists and patients dedicated to creating a community around digital health in Manchester as part of the international Health 2.0 movement. Founded by Dr Idalia Dawidowska it is a venue where healthcare innovators meet, are inspired, find collaborators and help in developing their innovative ideas and projects.

Yesterday’s busy session focussed on the question of how technology can help cancer patients/survivors­. With cancer becoming increasingly prevalent in our society - an estimated one in two people born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer - the need to discover innovative treatments, disagnostic tools, as well as technologies which will help us live with cancer, is a pressing one. This important topic was illuminated from three different perspectives  - from business, academia and from a patient.

The session opened with a talk by Dr Julie Barnes, the Founding CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of Abcodia. Abcodia applies math to analyse and interpret existing information to enable detecting cancer earlier. “Simple” and very powerful! The company is commercialising Prof. Ian Jacobs’s years of research into dynamic changes of the CA125 biomarker that led to the development of the ROCA (“risk of ovarian cancer algorithm’) test. ROCA is currently the most accurate ovarian cancer screening test. Recent studies have demonstrated that it also enables detecting the ovarian cancer earlier and therefore reduces the mortality.

Then, Cathy Ure, a PhD Research Student at the School of Health Sciences, University of Salford, explored the ways in which social technologies, and in particular social media, are used to support women with cancer. Noting that the increased prevalence of cancer in our society had led to its decreased stigmatisation she argued that social media had been crucial in effecting this change. By providing a platform for previously-unheard patients, as well as helping them to connect with one another, it has led to better informed and less marginalised cancer sufferers.

Finally, Jo Taylor , a breast cancer patient and founder of the website After Breast Cancer Diagnosis spoke, describing her own experiences as a cancer patient and the factors that led her to build an online support community for people with breast cancer.  Jo is and heralds the emergence of the new “type” of patients - informed and empowered that seek true partnerships in therapeutic relationships with healthcare providers.  Her website is aimed at patients, professionals and anyone seeking 'sign posting' information on breast cancer and reconstructions with a particular focus on empowering patients in their choices of care treatment. She is a passionate fundraiser for The Christie and campaigner on breast cancer - and will be meeting with Heidi Alexander, the shadow Health Secretary, next week to discuss the issues surrounding cancer treatments.

The event was well attended by both MSP customers and the wider community, with some thought-provoking and inspiring discussions taking place after the presentations. We have received many e-mails and comments on the Health 2.0 MCR page saying that many potentially useful conections have also been made! We are extremely proud to be able to host Health 2.0  at MSP and are looking forward to the next event! The meeting was also supported by the North West People in Research Forum.