Internet matches cancer patients with clinical trials via SecureNet

Houston 10 October 1998 In close collaboration with Microsoft and TVisions, the American Oncology Resources (AOR) Company has created SecureNet, a set of easy-to-use but very sophisticated applications and databases to adequately identify cancer patients for perfect matches with exactly those clinical trials they are in need of. In time, SecureNet will replace the current paper-based method which unfortunately has proven to deliver ineffective results in an ad hoc manner at the cost of too much effort. SecureNet constitutes a promising alternative to save precious lives and may offer original answers to cure cancer as well as other life-threatening diseases in the long run.

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In close collaboration with Microsoft and TVisions, the American Oncology Resources (AOR) Company has created SecureNet, a set of easy-to-use but very sophisticated applications and databases to adequately identify cancer patients for perfect matches with exactly those clinical trials they are in need of. In time, SecureNet will replace the current paper-based method which unfortunately has proven to deliver ineffective results in an ad hoc manner at the cost of too much effort. SecureNet constitutes a promising alternative to save precious lives and may offer original answers to cure cancer as well as other life-threatening diseases in the long run.

The American Oncology Resources Corporation is an American cancer management organization for physician's practices. The professional communication between oncologists is vital to the optimization of alternative treatments and therapies. SecureNet presents itself as a valuable source of information, allowing medical specialists to keep each other posted on the latest advances in adequate cancer treatment. Individual patients receive personalized care since the software tool enables the physician to carefully match each separate case with the most suitable clinical trial. The patient can directly consult the doctor without any need for travelling.

Since October 1st 1998, the SecureNet programme operates in every AOR affiliated oncologist's practice and consists of Microsoft's Site Server 3.0 Commerce Edition; Exchange v5.5; and Software Query Language (SQL) server v6.5. The first version includes all currently existing clinical trials in which the AOR is involved. The tool electronically assesses the medical data of each AOR patient in order to discover an appropriate clinical study. The whole team, ranging from the oncologist and the nurses to the technicians and the research coordinators, is participating in the process to avoid that certain patients should not be taken into account.

Once the cancer patient has been allotted a study, SecureNet organizes the follow-up by collecting and analysing the data for a detailed report on the research. The final decision to submit the patient to the selected clinical trial remains with the doctor but SecureNet means a tremendous help in the search for an adequate and individualized treatment programme. The tool has been embedded in a fully protected electronic Extranet environment. Security has been built in at all possible levels to guarantee the strictest data confidentiality in the broad circle of varied usership, extending towards the physicians, clinicians, administrators, and AOR partners such as drug companies.

Only AOR members have access to the site by means of a unique username and password that are attributed in the form of Site Servers Personalization and Membership (P&M) within the Membership Authentication protocol. The Personalization code only makes available to the user the information he is entitled to see. In addition, SecureNet equally provides Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption technology as a supplementary safety measure. In practice, the underlying P&M structure precisely regulates the required application level of security throughout the entire procedure for this type of groupware programme which also features Microsoft Exchange's Outlook Web Access (OWA).

If, for instance, a clinician logs into the system, the P&M features allow him to only consult his own patients' list. After the clinician has generated a new patient record, SecureNet assigns a physician by using the clinician's site-id to make a query in the P&M Membership server for a complete list of doctors with a matching site-id. Whenever a new patient has been added or a trial changed, the tool immediately starts the search for a match between both groups and also provides a list of e-mail addresses with the persons who should be notified. This information is stored as a personalization property in the doctor's account but can be modified on an account by account basis.

For the moment, SecureNet is still limited to the registration of AOR clinical trials. Very soon, the company hopes to introduce also community cancer studies, which are sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the cooperative research partners. In a next phase, SecureNet will be extended beyond cancer to additional medical specialities, in order to adjust clinical trials for other diseases to the individual needs of the patient.


Leslie Versweyveld

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