Cure Forward launches website to connect cancer patients with clinical trials

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Cure Forward, a web service that seeks to connect cancer patients with clinical trials, opened its service to patients and physicians for the first time on Tuesday.

Founder Martin Naley created Cure Forward to make it easier for cancer patients and their doctors to find and enroll in clinical trials anywhere in the country.

This is not groundbreaking in itself. Clinical trials recruiting for patients post their requirements publicly in several searchable databases, like this one hosted by the National Cancer Institute.

But Cure Forward goes one step further, allowing clinical trial recruiters to enroll patients through the website. The benefit goes both ways: Patients can create profiles that describe their disease but don’t reveal their identity, allowing recruiters to invite people who might be good candidates for an experimental treatment.

Irene Ghobrial, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said Cure Forward is “a good idea and a step forward,” but minding the confidentiality of patient data is key.

She noted that 80 percent of cancer patients are seen by oncologists who aren’t affiliated with academic institutions, which limits their ability to find clinical trials.

“There is no good way for us to say, this is a patient who [is a match], let us contact them,” said Ghobrial, who is not involved with the company.

Cure Forward is free for patients and physicians, while clinical trial recruiters pay a fee when they wind up enrolling patients.

Naley intends for patients to visit the website along with their physician, selecting a trial after talking through options together. One goal for Cure Forward is making its web interface more approachable than the typical stack of paperwork or outdated medical software that patients often encounter at the doctor’s office.

“It doesn’t feel like an intake form. It feels like a conversation,” Naley said.

An early partner is the US Oncology Network, a professional group of cancer doctors. Earlier this month, Naley presented the new interface at the group’s annual meeting.

Cure Forward has raised $15 million from New York venture capital firm Apple Tree Partners.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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