Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Prostate Cancer Foundation this week launched an online network that enables prostate cancer patients to track their disease.
The National Proactive Surveillance Network, dubbed by a Cedars-Sinai announcement as the first of its kind in the world, aims to help curb overtreatment often experienced by men with a slow-growing, non-life threatening form of the disease. Efforts to build the network began in 2010, spurred by a $5 million grant from the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
According to an announcement from the foundation, the program uses protocols created by Johns Hopkins doctors; the Baltimore hospital boasts the largest ongoing surveillance effort for prostate cancer patients in the nation.
Patients, according to Stuart Holden, M.D., director of Cedars-Sinai's Louis Warschaw Prostate Cancer Center, will be able to input all of their information into the database. He told Southern California Public Radio that the network also includes lifestyle questionnaires and a nutritional database and will allow patients to continuously use the Web portal to make follow-up appointments and access data as it accumulates.
"This database will eventually give us a better way to predict which men benefit from treatment and which men will not be harmed by choosing to defer treatment," he added in a statement.
Patients who join the network agree to undergo an annual prostate biopsy, as well as biannual digital rectum exams and urine and prostate-specific antigen tests.
Proactive surveillance, according to H. Ballentine Carter, M.D., director of adult urology at Johns Hopkins, is not a typical approach to care, however.
"It involves ongoing monitoring and management instead of surgery, radiation or other interventions," he said in a statement. "Proactive surveillance is similar in nature to options known as watchful waiting, expectant management or active surveillance, and emphasizes a patient's personal preferences."