Instead of relying on the small number of patients who go to research hospitals, doctors are recruiting huge numbers of participants online.
Nearly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, with about 1.7 million of those cases expected in 2016 in the United States (according to the National Cancer Institute). These patients are hoping for better treatments and, hopefully someday, cures. They could also be valuable resources, helping experts develop better therapies, if only staff at research centers like Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston could study their unique cases. Even patients with the same diagnosis, such as breast cancer, have different genetic makeups, both in their healthy cells and in their tumors. These differences provide clues to new genetic factors that may cause the disease, why some patients respond especially well to certain treatments, why some tumors are so resistant to treatment, and how people of different ages or ethnicities are affected.