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​Interactive Web Site Offers New Approach to Educating Cancer Patients about Clinical Trials

PITTSBURGH, March 7, 2007 Given that only a small percentage of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials, UPMC Cancer Centers and a Pittsburgh-based health care technology company are launching an interactive Web site that will help patients and their families learn about clinical trials. The site simulates a conversation by allowing visitors to type in their own unique questions and receive video-based answers in real time from other cancer patients, medical experts and educational guides.

Clinical trials are extremely important as more and more cancer drugs are developed that need to be tested, said Samuel Jacobs, M.D., associate director of clinical investigations at UPMC Cancer Centers. Unfortunately, many cancer patients do not learn about participating in clinical trials or have fears and misconceptions about them. Our hope is that this site will allay those fears and provide helpful information by allowing patients to ask questions openly from the privacy of their own homes.

The site was developed by UPMC Cancer Centers along with MedRespond, a company founded to commercialize a Carnegie Mellon University-patented technology called the Synthetic Interview which forms the basis for the sites capabilities. The site features interview clips with clinical trial participants who share their own personal views and experiences, and allows visitors to access an extensive menu of clinical trials topics and terms. A section of the site addresses the legacy of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and its impact on the participation of African-Americans in clinical trials.

In addition to Dr. Jacobs, experts featured on the Web site include Dwight Heron, M.D., director of radiation oncology services, UPMC Cancer Centers, and Marguerite Bonaventura, M.D., assistant professor, division of surgical oncology, UPMC Cancer Centers. The site was developed by Valerie Monaco, Ph.D., Beth Simon and Suzanne Pozzani, all with the UPMC Cancer Centers.

The Web site can be accessed by clicking on the Meet, Ask, Understand icon at

The concept for the Web site and initial funding grew out of a $5.6 million grant to UPMC Cancer Centers and six other cancer centers for a public-private partnership to help overcome barriers to participation in cancer clinical trials. The partnership includes the National Cancer Institute, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and a group of pharmaceutical companies, including Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.



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