Dr. Daniel Vorobiof is the Medical Director of Belong.Life, the world’s largest social network and navigator app for cancer patients, caregivers and medical professionals. He is the founder and former medical director of the Sandton Oncology Centre in Johannesburg and has published more than 100 peer reviewed articles in international medical journals. He formerly served as an executive board member of the International Committee of ASCO.
touchONCOLOGY joined Dr Vorobiof to discuss data being released at this year’s ASCO20 Virtual Meeting from a key study by Belong.Life. The abstracts provide key insights into major oncological issues such as BRCA mutation testing, financial toxicity and treatment delays. (See full details in the press release below.) These insights will help physicians deliver clear and concise information to patients, while helping them to understand ideal treatment paths for each individual. These studies also demonstrate the value of using social networking to engage patients and better understand their individual treatment journeys.
Q. Could you give us a brief overview of Belong.Life and the Belong Beating Cancer Together networking and navigation app?
Using proprietary mobile, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology, Belong.Life builds and operates patient engagement and navigation mobile applications for patient communities, healthcare organisations, pharma and hospitals.
Belong.Life has created multiple platforms to help people manage their treatment journey while improving their quality of life. One of these platforms is the Belong Beating Cancer Together app, which is the world’s largest social network for cancer patients with hundreds of thousands of users.
The free and anonymous app offers the following services, among others:
– Access to leading oncologists, radiologists, researchers and nurses who answer questions
– Assistance, tips and support from a vast social network of others with cancer
– A mobile medical binder for organising and managing and sharing documents with family and medical professionals
– Personalised educational information and notifications throughout the cancer journey
– Access to a robust clinical trial matching service specific to the patient’s type of cancer
Q. What unmet need does Belong.Life fill for patients?
While cancer is common all around the world, gaps in education, lack of support and access to medical professionals and clinical trials persist. Belong.Life fills each of these needs to ease the patient journey. Using a proprietary algorithm powered by AI, Belong.Life delivers customised content designed for each user’s needs. The information each user sees on the app is personalised for their specific point in their cancer journey, creating an unsurpassed patient experience.
Belong.Life provides an all-in-one resource for information and support, offering a much-needed connection between patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals. The ability for users to easily speak with leading oncologists, radiologists, researchers, nurses and other professionals who provide prompt, professional, and reliable responses is fulfilling a massive need in the cancer community. In addition, Belong.Life’s apps give users access to a free, robust clinical trial matching service specific to their type of cancer, increasing patients’ chances for survival by providing them with access to the latest treatment technologies, while simultaneously helping science accelerate cancer research.
Q. What were the aims and design of the study investigating testing for the BRCA gene in routine clinical practice?
Breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the two genes most commonly involved in hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. When mutations occur in these genes, the carrier becomes more susceptible to developing various cancers, including breast, ovarian, as well as other cancers – pancreatic, prostate and more. Families with a strong history of breast and ovarian cancer are more likely to be carriers of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
Generally, genetic testing is done following guidelines from The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) for those who have a strong family health history of breast and ovarian cancer, a personal history of breast cancer, or a known family history of BRCA1, BRCA2, or other inherited mutation, to name a few.
The aim of the study was to assess the real-world evidence of physician’s advice on BRCA testing among Belong Beating Cancer Together app users with breast and ovarian cancers. 377 Belong members answered a survey which included nine demographic questions, if they were tested for BRCA, who recommended they do the testing, and whether they underwent any treatment changes or other recommendations due to the obtained result.
Doctors involved in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients should follow the USPSTF guidelines and recommendations available for the population of patients with the indicated characteristics mentioned above.
Q. What were the findings of this study, and what are the implications of these findings?
Of the 377 global patients who took part in the study, 302 (80%) had breast cancer and 75 (20%) had ovarian cancer. US-based patients included 220 (73%) with breast cancers and 47 (62%) with ovarian cancers.
BRCA testing was performed in 192 out of 302 breast cancer patients (64%) and in 60 out of 75 ovarian cancer patients (80%). 110 out of 302 (36%) breast cancer patients didn’t undergo the test for various reasons, including 74 patients (67%) who didn’t receive physicians’ advice to have it done. In that specific group, 24 out of 74 patients (32%) fell under the recommended USPSTF guidelines, as mentioned above.
The fact that testing for the BRCA mutation was not requested in a group of patients who should have had it done according to the recommended guidelines creates issues regarding risk assessment, prevention options and possible treatment changes. This could all be influenced by the presence of a positive test.
Q. Could you give us a brief overview of the other abstracts published by ASCO?
Two other abstracts published in the ASCO 2020 Abstract Book include:
Financial toxicity (FT) real-world data evidence (RWDE) in American patients (pts) receiving cancer immunotherapy drugs (IOT)
Financial toxicity is an accumulation of serious financial issues that patients experience because of treatment costs. Key findings of this study showed that financial toxicity (FT) is most prevalent in American patients older than 61. Half of those patients were unaware of possible issues of financial toxicity and only 29% received pre-treatment FT-related advice from their doctors. Those who did receive prior advice saw a 41% reduction in their financial toxicity incidence. This study demonstrates the need for physicians to raise the financial aspects of cancer treatment with their patients.
Time from diagnosis to first line immunotherapy (IOT) and its challenges, in a retrospective, multicenter study of Israeli patients (pts) with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
This study showed significant variability in the start of first line of treatment for Israeli patients diagnosed with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This is most commonly due to the time it takes to obtain molecular test results to define the targeted drugs. This is important, because treatment delays are likely to impact patient well-being negatively and developing a time to treatment protocol is a very valuable guideline.
Disclosure: Dr Daniel Vorobiof has no conflicts of interest to declare in relation to this interview.
Support: Interview and filming supported by Touch Medical Media, who commissioned the interview in liaison with Finn Partners. For full information, please follow the following links to the abstracts: Abstract e19357, Abstract e19331 and Abstract e19346:
Published: 2 June May 2020
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