Eric Topol published a Commentary on Medscape describing a study published in JAMA in which cancer patients that tracked 12 symptoms and shared the tracking results with their health teams had a five months increase in survival equivalent with some of the most promising drugs.

The conclusion of the commentary:

Why is this trial so important? First, it is not a stand-alone result but the replication of one with concordant results, now with a fivefold increase in sample size and long-term follow-up (instead of premature discontinuation).

Second, the improvement in survival of > 5 months compares quite favorably with the median survival improvement in major oncology drug trials, such as those seen with the exciting results of immunotherapy. Many of these trials have shown a 3-month median survival improvement for new drugs, leading to commercial approval and costing at least $100,000 per treatment.

But unlike the drug trials, there was little promotion or coverage. The only major newspaper that reported on the trial was the Washington Post.[4] This might have been anticipated; there is no sponsor. The ASCO meeting is characterized by the reporting of hundreds of drug trials, but it turned out that a digital medicine trial had striking results that largely outperformed most of the expensive and heavily promoted biopharma interventions. The digital tracking strategy costs very little: an app, an algorithm, and a strategy for clinician response. But that represents a de minimis amount considering the outcome of improved survival—or the new drug cost of $100,000 per patient.

Most important, this trial emphasizes the role of engaging patients in tracking their symptoms and of generating their own data. Patients have long been neglected for having a more active role in their care, when in fact, given the appropriate tools, they represent true “blockbuster” potential for improving their outcomes.[5]

HT to our member Marilyn Mann for sharing the link in our Member’s Facebook Group. If you would like to join, you can do so here (