National Cancer Institute funds pilot to test sensing, self-report tools

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded $2.2 million in contracts to Boston-based mHealth startup QMedic to "create next-generation passive sensing and self-report tools to enhance clinical interventions for at-risk patients," according to an announcement

The Small Business Innovation Research contracts, funded by NCI, the National Institutes of Health and Department of Health and Human Services, will be used by QMedic to launch a three-year clinical partnership with Northwestern University's Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center (RHLCCC) and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), which will focus on delivering mHealth interventions to cancer rehabilitation patients in remote locations.   

"To this point, passive sensing has been limited to 'quantified self' applications, which appeal to the fitness enthusiast but offer little to no insight to clinicians interested in shifting the paradigm of care delivery from treatment to prevention," said Sombit Mishra, CEO of QMedic, in a written statement. "Our partnership with Northwestern and the National Cancer Institute is designed to validate and scale an integrated mHealth approach for measuring and improving patient outcomes in the home." 

Dr. Lynne Wagner, Associate Professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Director of the RHLCCC Survivorship Program, says in the announcement that "early identification of cancer survivors for medical evaluation and cancer rehabilitation services optimizes outcomes, particularly among older adults at risk for functional declines."

Over the past two years, QMedic has secured nearly $2.5 million in funding from NCI. According to Dr. Samman Shahpar, Medical Director of RHLCCC-RIC, the mHealth tools that QMedic is developing could significantly improve the quality of care by enabling early identification of patients for certain rehab services.

QMedic is developing what it claims to be the first ever passive wearable sensing technology that detects and predicts emergency events in the home, and sends real-time feedback to caregivers when something unusual occurs. This "smart" medical alert system warns the caregiver if the user is not wearing the device, fails to get out of bed, or is out of home for extended periods of time. 

In March, a study published in the Journal of Cancer Education looked at smartphone apps as a source of cancer information. The study found a "lack of cancer-related applications with scientifically backed data." Among the 77 apps in the study identified on the Apple iTunes store, only a little more than half of the apps provided scientifically validated data, while a mere 79 percent of the apps uploaded by healthcare agencies were found to be backed by scientific data. 

To learn more:
- read the announcement