Magazine article Information Today

Reliable Cancer Resources on the Internet

Magazine article Information Today

Reliable Cancer Resources on the Internet

Article excerpt

Cancer is one of the hottest topics on the Internet. Although the National Cancer Institute reported last month that cancer incidence and death rates declined between 1990 and 1995 (reversing a 20-year trend), we still expect about 1,228,600 new cancer cases to be diagnosed in 1998.

These data were found on the Internet, with just a few minutes of time invested. Solid clinical information is a bit harder to discover, not because there is so little of it, but because there is so much, and evaluating the many sites providing cancer information appropriate for the clinician is a time-consuming task.

In this column, and likely in the next couple, I'll take a look at some of the cancer resources on the Net and evaluate their appropriateness and value to the clinician. Let's begin with a look at two of the better-known sites, and in my next column begin to explore other sites in detail.

CancerNet from the National Cancer Institute

CancerNet (http://cancerNet.nci.nih.gov) offers some key resources for the clinician, both for his or her own use and to assist in educating patients. The information at CancerNet is reviewed regularly by oncology experts and is based on the latest research. The resources revolve around Physician's Data Query (PDQ), the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) comprehensive cancer database. PDQ offers summaries on cancer treatment, screening, and prevention; instructions on supportive care; and information to help locate clinical trials in oncology.

To get to valuable information for cancer patients, follow the link from the CancerNet home page to CancerTrials (http:// cancertrials.nci.nih.gov), NCI's comprehensive clinical trials information center. A truly valuable resource (besides the updated Breast Cancer Prevention Trial reports) is hidden away behind the "introduction" link, which you'll find on the left side of the page. The introduction contains extremely well-done documents for patients that explain how clinical trials work and discuss the issues surrounding the decision to participate in a clinical trial. The documents are clear and thorough, for example, discussing different kinds of clinical trials (e.g., cancer detection, prevention, or treatment), what phase I - IV trials are, how a protocol is developed, who can participate, etc. For any physician looking for documents to help educate a patient who is considering entering a clinical trial, this is a top resource.

To actually search for a clinical trial you'll need to go to http://cancernet.nci. nih.gov/prot/protsrch.shtml. You can either type the URL or go to the NCI home page, select the PDQ link, and scroll down the page to find the "health professionals search form" link.

Information on more than 1,500 active clinical trials can be referenced through PDQ.,Better known for its summary information on cancer treatment and prevention, PDQ is also the most extensive database for cancer clinical trials.

You search through PDQ's Cancer Trials Registry using the form available at http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov/prot/prot srch.shtml. (Just type it in. It takes longer to find the link than it does to type it.) The search form allows you to search by cancer type, phase, and treatment modality as well as by more detailed information such as sponsorship, trial type, drug used, protocol, and trial location(s). You can search for all trial types or limit any of the fields to specific entities (for example, you can search for studies limited to gene therapy).

Selecting "lip and oral cavity" from the diagnosis pull down, I found more than 60 current clinical trials dealing with everything from prevention to adjuvant therapy for this kind of cancer.

PDQ also provides summary information for clinicians (and patients) on cancer treatment, screening, prevention, and more. The PDQ treatment summaries (http://can cernet.nci.nih.gov/clinpdq/soa.html) are structured as a long table of contents (I used the browser's "find" function to locate "lip" in the list). …

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