Session to focus on the use of digital health and PROs in breast cancer research and care


Estimated Read Time:

3 minutes
Ann Partridge, MD, MPH
Ann Partridge, MD, MPH

Clinicians who are not using digital health solutions and patient reported outcomes (PROs) are missing major opportunities to improve patients’ health, cancer outcomes, and satisfaction. Researchers, too, can harness technology to study real-time behaviors and effects of interventions, and potentially improve trial results with the help of digital tools and PROs.

“We barely have enough oncologists to take care of people on active therapy,” said Ann H. Partridge, MD, MPH, Vice Chair of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Founder and Director, Program for Young Adults with Breast Cancer, Director, Adult Survivorship Program, and Eric P. Winer, MD, Chair in Breast Cancer Research and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School.

“Recognizing that our patients also have lots of needs at diagnosis and in follow up, the more we can harness technology to help augment the care that patients are going to self-manage anyway but provide them vetted structure and support with good information, the better off they are.”

Dr. Partridge will moderate Digital Health and PROs in Breast Cancer Research and Care on Wednesday, from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm in Hemisfair Ballroom 1&2. Digital health and PROs already play important roles in care and research, they just aren’t well recognized.

Shoshana Rosenberg, ScD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Population Health Sciences, Weill Cornell Medicine, will explore the burgeoning body of evidence supporting the use of PROs in multiple clinical and research settings.

Oluwadamilola M. Fayanju, MD, MA, MPHS, FACS, Helen O. Dickens Presidential Associate Professor and Chief of Breast Surgery, Perelman School of Medicine, and Director of Health Equity Innovation, Penn Center for Cancer Innovation, Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, will discuss the practicalities of incorporating PROs into clinical care. Many centers already do.

“There so many technologies people are using every day but haven’t thought about them as helping in their cancer care and outcomes,” Dr. Partridge said. “Much of our supportive care is already managed through iterative technological solutions. Think about patient reported outcomes where patients respond to a brief survey about symptoms. Patients might get information on how to manage if symptoms are mild, maybe a recommendation to call the doctor or nurse if they are more severe, or an automatic referral to a clinician who calls right back. It depends on the setting, and the symptoms and severity generally.”

Ines Vaz Luis, PhD, Medical Oncologist, Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus, Villejuif, France, will explore the future of digital interventions and PROs. Digital watches, for example, can track heart rate, physical movement, exercise, sleep, and other activities.

“We know that exercise is associated with better breast cancer outcomes,” Dr. Partridge said. “Sleep is super important for a lot of outcomes, including breast cancer. Wearables can measure these activities and track them over time. And they can track the potential benefits of an intervention and help us understand whether something works.”

Patty Spears, BS, Scientific Research Manager and Patient Advocacy, University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Office of Clinical and Translational Research, will discuss patient perspectives.

“If you don’t have patient engagement, if your patients aren’t there to talk you through concepts, design, and utilization, you will build it and they won’t come,” Dr. Partridge cautioned. “Everything about your digital health solutions, your PROs, has to feel engageable for your patients. Whether you are a researcher or a clinician, digital health and patient reported outcomes are part of cancer care.”