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UCLA Professor Partners with Apple on First-ever Mobile App to Track Breast Cancer Survivor Experiences

Tech giants Apple and Sage Bionetworks, together with UCLA cancer pioneer and collaborator Dr. Patricia Ganz, FSPH professor of health policy and management, today announced the launch of Share the Journey: Mind, Body, and Wellness after Breast Cancer, a patient-centered mobile app that empowers women to be partners in the research process by tracking their symptoms and successes.

Available for download today at the iTunes App Store, Share the Journey was developed by UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Penn Medicine, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Sage Bionetworks, and is a research study that aims to understand why some breast cancer survivors recover faster than others, why their symptoms vary over time, and what can be done to improve symptoms. Share the Journey will use surveys and sensor data on iPhone to collect and track fatigue, mood and cognitive changes, sleep disturbances, and reduction in exercise.

Share the Journey is one of five new apps being launched in conjunction with Apple’s ResearchKit, an open-source tool designed by Apple to serve as a streamlined hub for iOS apps that can help speed scientific progress toward cures by amplifying the patient voice in shaping research directions and outcomes.

Share the Journey shifts the center of care, healing, and intervention into the hands of women who have survived breast cancer. Its creators say that collecting women’s experiences after breast cancer treatment will create a trove of data based on well-validated surveys and measurements that will be continuously improved upon based on the participants’ feedback.

Women who have undergone surgery, radiation, or drug therapy to treat breast cancer often experience symptoms that affect their quality of life and impede recovery. By collecting data from mobile phone sensors, participant surveys and health diaries, Share the Journey will track five common consequences of breast cancer treatment: fatigue, cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbances, mood changes, and a reduction in exercise performance.

“We’re excited to use these new ResearchKit tools to expand participant recruitment and quickly gather even more data through the simple use of an app. The data it will provide take us one step closer to developing more personalized care,” said Patricia Ganz, director of Cancer Prevention & Control Research at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “Access to more diverse patient-reported health data will help us learn more about long-term aftereffects of cancer treatments and provide us with a better understanding of breast cancer patients’ experience.”

Share the Journey is open to women between the ages of 18 and 80 who live in the United States, whether or not they have had breast cancer. Those who have not had breast cancer will contribute important data to the app that will help researchers understand which symptoms may be related to cancer treatment and which may be part of the normal aging process. The developers also are creating a Spanish-language version of the app and planning to expand the study to other countries.

“One reason to build these apps and run these studies is to see whether we can turn anecdotes into signals, and by generating signals find windows for intervention,” said Dr. Stephen Friend, president of Sage Bionetworks and a principal investigator for Share the Journey. “We’re most interested in disease variations and the hourly, daily, or weekly ebb and flow of symptoms that are not being tracked and completely missed by biannual visits to the doctor.”