Researchers want to use Twitter to spread the word of ongoing cancer clinical trials.

(Mirror Daily, United States) – A great number of doctors and patients are waiting for researchers to come up with cures and treatments. But few are aware of the fact that the work behind such solutions is gigantesque, and there is a serious lack of volunteer patients that must be involved in experimental trials before the FDA decides to approve anything. And now a team of young scientists wants to use social media in order to bring awareness to the need for study participants.

It may sound odd, but it seems that the biggest problem in the research for new cancer treatments is not the breakthrough medical work itself, but rather finding patients that are willing to participate in the experimental trials.

The researchers say that an average of 5 percent of cancer suffering adults participates in experimental trials. This is mostly because the people are not informed about these alternate treatment possibilities.

Doctors from Pennsylvania University wrote an article in the Oncology section of the JAMA journal stating that patients could join the fight against cancer on Twitter, or other social media platform.

According to Mina Sedrak, a fellow at the Penn University’s Abramson Center for Cancer Research, social media is uncharted territory. It may also be the key to a better promotion for trial recruitment campaigns.

There are plenty of cancer patients in the US that don’t even know about the possibility of participating in a study trial. These are people who are not informed about a possible life-saving solution. It may not always work for the trial patients, but it will ultimately save lives.

A survey made on a sample of 6000 patients diagnosed with cancer revealed that roughly 85 percent out of them weren’t even aware of the fact that clinical trial participation was an option for them.

Out of the same sample, 75 percent declared that they would have enrolled if they knew about the trials.

Unfortunately, Dr. Sedrak says that unless physicians inform their patients about outgoing tests, there are no other means of spreading the message.

Not until now. He and three other colleagues from Abramson, alongside an expert in social media conducted a pilot study of only 16 days in order to determine if Twitter was used to propagate cancer information.

He and his team searched for “lung cancer” on the social platform. The result was of more than 26,000 posts. They then removed the retweets and the ones unrelated to the actual diseases. After that, they randomized the posts and selected a 1,516 tweets sample.

The vast majority was focused on prevention or psychological support. A couple of them were talking about human research, but they were vague. Finally, one was posted with the intention of recruiting patients for a trial.

Further research is needed, but the team is confident that soon patients will be able to join the fight against cancer on Twitter or any other social media platforms.

Image source: jisc.ac.uk