According to the site Statista, nearly nearly four out five people in the U.S. have at profile on at least on social network. Unfortunately, it stands to reason that more than a few of these millions of people are sick with one illness or another. In many cases, people with the same disease will band together on Facebook or some other site to provide support and share information. And now, medical researchers are turning to these sites as a means of recruiting subjects for research studies.
One example is the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project (MBC Project). The project is lead by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and it is pioneering a new approach to cancer research. The scientists work directly with the study subjects who volunteer to share their samples and clinical data. The goal is to build a large database of information about the histories and genetic information of women and men who have experienced metastatic breast cancer. The study will remove any information that “would make it easy to identify you as an individual.” The database will be made available to other researchers through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The program has made extensive use of social media channels including Twitter and Facebook to recruit subjects for their studies. At the start of this year, they had already enlisted more than 1,100 women and men with metastatic breast cancer to participate in the program. They will be sending saliva kits to all participants to collect genetic data as part of the program database.
Social media channels can give medical researchers direct access to large samples of people who have specific conditions or diseases. These people could represent a valuable source of information across a wide range of the target group. More information should lead to better conclusions, which eventually could result in a better understanding of various diseases and more effective treatments.