Computer Algorithm Can Help Manage Cancer Symptoms

Novel program found cost effective and safe for patients with cancer managing the adverse effects of treatment.

Computer algorithms can help patients with cancer better manage symptoms and improve overall wellbeing, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Patients with cancer often experience a range of symptoms caused by the disease itself or resulting from the adverse effects of chemotherapy or other treatments, which can be life threatening and require hospitalization. These symptoms can lower a patient’s quality of life significantly and better management is needed in order to reduce physical distress.

The study included 508 patients between 18 and 86 years of age who were starting chemotherapy at Leeds Cancer Centre in the United Kingdom. Over the course of the 18-week study period, 256 of the participants diagnosed with early-stage breast or gynecological cancer answered specific questions through an online symptom, known as eRAPID, once a week or when a new symptom appeared.

Questions addressed pain levels, nausea, spending time in bed, and not meeting family needs. An algorithm designed by investigators and clinicians scored the responses and determined what advice the patient received. In total, 3314 online reports were completed documenting 18,867 symptoms.

According to the study, patients reported better symptom control and wellbeing in the early weeks of treatment. Additionally, the system prevented symptom deterioration in approximately 9% of patients after 12 weeks.

Patients also reported they were more confident in managing their health at the end of the 4-month trial period. Emergency alerts were sent under 29 times, whereas serious symptoms not requiring immediate medical attention were reported on 14% of occasions, according to the study.

"Remote online monitoring options have the potential to be a patient-centered, safe and effective approach to support patients during cancer treatment and manage the growing clinical workload for cancer care," said Galina Velikova, PhD, program lead professor, in a press release.

The system was also found to be cost-effective. According to the study, more than 80% of self-reported symptoms triggered self-management advice. Data showed no increase in hospital workload, differences in chemotherapy delivery, or compromised patient safety.

REFERENCE:

New tech helping cancer patients manage symptoms [News Release] January 8, 2021; Leeds, United Kingdom. Accessed January 11, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/uol-nth010821.php.