An informative site to help patients with cancer
According to an article by Qato and colleagues in PLoS One, 90% of Americans live within 2 miles of a community pharmacy. This means that when the average patient has questions about their medications, diseases, test, results, etc., it is easiest to turn to a pharmacist. Unfortunately, the pharmacist they turn to may not be familiar with the topic they are asking about. Community pharmacists play a critical role, especially if their community is one which is medically underserved. Having access to resources that can teach them the knowledge they need to benefit their patients is critical.
In oncology, medications are constantly being approved, and targets are constantly being discovered. Mycancergenome.org is an amazing website that helps simplify information so that it can be easily understood and relayed to patients.
There are two likely scenarios in which a community pharmacist will use mycancergenome.org. One is when a patient comes into the pharmacy with some information they received from their oncologist via their electronic portal. Except it is Friday night, their oncologist’s office is not going to be open until Monday, and they are very worried. Their most likely next step is that they are going to go to the health care provider who is likely available, which would be a pharmacist. When a patient shows up at the pharmacy counter, terrified about what these genomic mutations mean for their cancer, community pharmacists have the proper resource with mycancergenome.org. In this scenario, the biomarkers section is the most helpful. Looking at the patient’s report, pharmacists can search the patient’s results to see if there are any medications that can be used.
For example, if a patient comes in who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer and their report says that they have a BRCA1 mutation, a pharmacist can type that in into the biomarkers section, click on ovarian cancer, and find that there are four different PARP inhibitors that can be used for BRCA1 mutations, but only three of them are indicated for ovarian cancer.
The second scenario for when this website will be help is approaching a counseling session about an unfamiliar medication. When this situation arises, it is helpful to use the drugs section of the website. This section goes in depth about how each medication works in terms of the target that it works on. I found that the explanations are more succinct, and they allow me to provide better counseling. This section would be particularly useful if a patient comes in very confused about their medication, why their taking it, what it is used for, and how it works.
More resources for your toolbox
Community pharmacists are the frontline health care workers for the average American patient. Being aware of resources that can elevate the level of care provided to patients is critical. This is another resource that can be added to the toolbox.
Allison Reed, PharmD, BCPS, is PGY2 oncology pharmacist resident in Boise, ID. She is a lifelong Purdue Boilermakers fan, and enjoys exploring the outdoors with her maltipoo “Trixie,” trying new restaurants, traveling to see friends and family, and wearing a mask during global pandemics.