Sanofi, a leading pharmaceutical company, Mobile Commons, a mobile software developer, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation have introduced a text-messaging program to allow men with advanced prostate cancer and their caregivers to gain more insight about the condition.
Announced on Feb. 5, the program, called Prost8Care, provides text messages aimed at increasing patients' involvement in their care.
To participate, patients text PROSTATE to 776788 (PROST8) and caregivers can text CARE to the same number. The program is free, but recipients are subject to carriers' data rates.
Sanofi, which manufacturers the chemotherapies Taxotere and Jevtana used in prostate cancer treatment, co-sponsored the program along with the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Mobile Commons developed the SMS software for Prost8Care. The company uses a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform to distribute the text messages. It has previously powered texting campaigns for pre- and postnatal care, drug adherence and smoking cessation.
Doctors' offices will distribute printed materials to patients containing instructions on how to enroll in the Prost8Care program.
Prost8Care provides support for patients enduring chemotherapy treatment. Patients start receiving text messages within one week according to their treatment cycles and continue receiving them for a maximum of 12 weeks. The messaging service can provide scheduled reminders of treatment and information about side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It also sends tips on food and diet as well as how to manage fatigue and minimize risks of infection.
The Prostate Cancer Foundation developed the content for the text messages along with a board of oncologists and oncology nurses.
"Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, with one in six facing a prostate cancer diagnosis in his lifetime and 241,740 new cases reported in 2012 alone," Dr. Howard Soule, chief scientific officer at the Prostate Cancer Foundation, said in a statement. "Through Prost8Care, we are helping those coping with advanced stages of the disease through text messages timed to coincide with their chemotherapy treatment cycles."
Although Prost8Care is a one-way messaging service, the program can increase patients' communication with doctors during their period of care, said Jed Alpert, CEO and co-founder of Mobile Commons.
"The goal of Prost8Care is to encourage patients and educate them, and facilitate productive conversations with their physicians throughout the course of their treatment," Alpert said in a statement.
The technology could be effective since 95 percent of Americans with chronic diseases have access to texting, said Alpert.
"It's one of the few ways of communicating that everyone reads," Alpert told eWEEK. "It's not cluttered with spam; it's highly personal."
Although only 9 percent of patients receive medical updates or alerts, 80 percent of cell phone owners send and receive text messages, the Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed in its "Mobile Health 2012" report.
"It's really the preferred way of receiving information," said Alpert. "People get information relevant to what they're likely to need at that moment."
The National Cancer Institute and the New York City Department of Health also use the Mobile Commons texting platform to send messages to smokers trying to quit. California Poison Control System similarly informs the public about poison issues through SMS messages.
Although Prost8Care is only text-based, Mobile Commons offers two-way voice text and mobile Web communication for other messaging campaigns.