Emory's CancerQuest wins top Web award from Scientific American

May 29, 2003

CancerQuest, a Web site developed at Emory University devoted to giving cancer patients tools to learn practical, scientific knowledge about their illness, has received a 2003 Sci/Tech Web Award from ScientificAmerican.com, the online component of Scientific American magazine.

Scientific American editors reviewed more than 1,000 Web sites and selected the top 50 they deemed the most valuable science and technology resources for the third-annual awards. CancerQuest, found at http://www.cancerquest.org, was named one of the top five sites in the medical category. The site also recently received an "Editor's Choice" award from OncoLink, the cancer site at the University of Pennsylvania.

CancerQuest is designed to teach people the biology of cancer in a clear and concise manner. While there is a wealth of cancer news and advice on the Internet, much of it is either very technical and designed for doctors and scientists, or broad and simplistic, says Gregg Orloff, a senior lecturer in biology at Emory who spearheaded the development of CancerQuest.

"I found that there is not much out there that really teaches the biology of cancer, that can explain to people what is happening to them," Orloff says.

While not clinical in scope, CancerQuest gives a detailed, yet easy-to-grasp overview of how cells work, and what happens when they break down and become cancerous. The site outlines the actions and effects of various treatments, but does not make any recommendations, he says.

CancerQuest is structured like a textbook and features several animated graphics to explain concepts. A dictionary is built in, so users can quickly look up the definitions of scientific terms. All references are documented, with links to other Web pages for those wanting more information about a particular aspect of treatment or different types of cancer. Future plans include offering the project in several languages.

The idea for CancerQuest, which received funding through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant, came to Orloff during his wife's experience with breast cancer. During treatment, her oncologist recommended that she attend a support group of other breast cancer patients, and she brought along her husband.

"When people realized I was a biology professor, they began asking me a barrage of questions about cancer. It made me realize there was a real need for information -- a hunger for it," Orloff says.

In the process of creating CancerQuest, the project also became a teaching tool for Orloff. Students enrolled in his upper-level cancer biology course helped to research and produce some of the material presented. Several of those students have continued to work on the site and have produced additional content and graphics.

Current work on the site is being supported by the Winship Cancer Institute, Emory's Program in Science and Society, and the academic technology group in Emory's Information Technology Division.
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Emory University Health Sciences Center

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