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Smartphone App Improves Ovarian Tumor Database

When surgeons complete an operation, they often have to go away and immediately fill in records to upload to databases for programs that are tracking patient and disease outcomes to help current and future research and inform treatment decisions. Now thanks to a new smartphone app, ovarian cancer surgeons in British Columbia in Canada can enter and upload tumor data directly from the operating theatre.

"As soon as the case is finished, I can pick up my iPhone and enter all of the vital information from the procedure we just performed," gynaecological surgeon Dr Sarah Finlayson, who is an assistant professor in the University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Medicine, told the press on Monday.

The data is uploaded to a provincial database that stores tumor information for the Cheryl Brown Ovarian Cancer Outcomes Unit, which developed the smartphone app. The information supports current and future studies into ovarian cancer.

The Outcomes Unit is a division of the Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OvCaRe) at the BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver Coastal Health.

Finlayson, who is also a researcher with OvCaRe, championed the idea of a smartphone app to improve the database.

The app prompts surgeons to enter specific surgical details, which then upload directly into the Outcomes Unit database, saving time and increasing accuracy.

Patient anonymity is assured via unique patient IDs and coding that scrambles them as the data is sent. The critical data, approved and anonymized, is then immediately available for leading edge ovarian researchers to use.

Finalyson said it "takes approximately five minutes to complete versus a lengthy chart review process, which would then need to be manually entered into the system".

The innovation has been made possible thanks to a generous donation from Doug Gray a supporter of OvCaRe , and whose wife is an ovarian cancer survivor.

"My wife, Diana, was diagnosed with a rare sub-type of ovarian cancer, ovarian clear cell carcinoma (OCCC), in May of 2008. She has been in remission for three and a half years since she completed her surgery and chemotherapy and lives a full life," said Gray.

Gray said he was keen to support a "sophisticated clinical database project" for the BC Cancer Foundation.

"I saw this project as an opportunity to augment clinical research knowledge of ovarian cancer that could benefit patients and possibly my wife going forward," he explained.

The new app is part of a suite of upgrades to the Outcomes Unit, which aims not only to provide high quality information for research, but also make it available to improve clinical care of patients.

Eventually entire health teams will be able to enter customized patient data that can then be extracted and analyzed in "real time" for clinical treatment.

Breakthroughs in ovarian cancer research rely on gaining new insights into the biology of the disease, and how patients respond to treatment. High quality data gathered in hospitals and clinics underpin this process. Recently, this type of data has helped a number of research projects, including a landmark study that identified ovarian cancer subtypes.

Over the past 25 years, the Cheryl Brown Ovarian Cancer Outcomes Unit has recorded data on approximately 3,400 ovarian tumors and has contributed to over 40 research projects.

Ovarian cancer is the most serious of all gynecological cancers. Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial carcinomas (cancer that starts in the cells on the surface of the ovary) or malignant germ cell tumors (cancer that starts inside egg cells).

According to Ovarian Cancer Canada, over 2,600 Canadian women are diagnosed with the disease every year, and every year 1,750 women die from it. There is no screening test and symptoms can be vague, varied and easily missed. But when found early, the survival rate is 90%.

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