Guided by Experience

CURE, Supplement 2012, Volume 11, Issue 0

A new website helps cancer pateints understand the benefits of individualized treatments.

Roberta Smigel remembers the moment she came up with the idea for IsMyCancerDifferent.com, a website that helps cancer patients understand the benefits of individualized treatments.

Seven years earlier, while interviewing for a communications and marketing position at a cancer diagnostics company, she realized it’s the pathologist who interprets test results and then relays the information to the oncologist.

“We’re in the interview, and I said, ‘Why don’t patients know that?’” Smigel recalls. She thought a website explaining molecular testing and personalized medicine would be a helpful educational tool for patients.

“A cancer diagnosis spins confusion in a person’s head,” Smigel says. “How do they know what to ask the oncologist?”

For Smigel, developing the website was also deeply personal. When her mother received a diagnosis of colon cancer, Smigel brought her stacks of printouts from the Internet, and then watched as her mother struggled to understand the information. Smigel finally threw away the papers and started over by drawing a simple picture of a tumor.

“A cancer diagnosis spins confusion in a person’s head. How do they know what to ask the oncologist?”

As she was developing the website, Smigel’s experience with her mother guided her decision to present molecular diagnostics in an easy-to-understand manner. The site, which is sponsored by Clarient, a division of GE Healthcare, launched in September.