PICA #097

Breakthrough cancer pain brings terrible suffering to thousands of people, we are trying to help reduce the suffering.


Oncodol is a new app, created by Atstrat with doctors and patients to help them manage cancer pain.

Imagine living with pain every day and that, despite constant drug treatment to control the underlying pain, you experience acute pain spikes with variable duration (ten, twenty, thirty, forty, up to sixty minutes) many times a day. Imagine feeling total and debilitating pain for two hours a day and living the rest of the day with the fear of the return of this "pain within pain".
Breakthrough cancer pain (BTcP) affects 150,000 new cancer patients every year in Italy. It is underestimated and often treated incorrectly.

Starting from September 2020, Atstrat (my company) started a project, sponsored by Angelini Pharma, to improve the management of BTcP. The first step was to unite a multidisciplinary team of experts. We had the pleasure and honor of forming a Steering Committee with the oncologist Roberto La Bianca, the palliativist Alessandro Valle, the psychologist Monica Seminara, the narrative medicine expert Maria Giulia Marini, the communication strategist Alessandra Toscano and myself, a creative strategist.
This group debated the multidimensionality of the problem, collected scientific data and research on BTcP, identified critical aspects and key management milestones. We also carried out an analysis of existing BTcP tools (digital and otherwise) and for pain management in general.

Based on the first hypotheses of the Steering Committee we established the design of a qualitative survey that we carried out in Italy, Spain and Poland, involving patients/caregivers and doctors/nurses. The survey used the CQS (Creative Qualitative Survey) methodology, which uses tailor-made creative exercises to explore experiences and expectations in depth. By creating specific exercises for medical specialists and different exercises for patients/caregivers we were able to obtain important insights from both.

In particular, it was evident that:
• the tools currently available for assessing BTcP episodes are too complex and burdensome for patients to manage and complicated for doctors to consult;
• the importance of having a simple tool: quick to use; allowing patients to record their pain episodes; to simplify the sharing of information with their doctor; allowing the doctor to view BTcP data immediately and provide simple historical reports of the essential parameters over time.

Based on these and other insights that emerged from the research and with the expertise of the Steering Committee, the functions of the Oncodol app were defined. Particular attention was paid to privacy protection and the correct management and security of data and systems (privacy by design). The subsequent development of the application (for Android and iOS) was carried out in collaboration with eFarm Group. From October 2021, Oncodol is available in Italy and Spain. For the localisation and promotion of the app in different regions, we work together with the patient associations: Attivecomeprima in Italy and CMM in Spain. The feedback we received from patients and doctors of patient associations in the refinement phase of the app was very positive (except for a few bugs that we promptly resolved). In 2022 we plan to make the app available in other countries and hope to help many patients and doctors. Breakthrough cancer pain can be treated and controlled. It is important to do so because pain has a huge impact on daily life. Everyone has the right to avoid suffering at any stage of their cancer. Our completely free app is a valuable tool that helps to improve pain control by simplifying vital pain information sharing between patients and healthcare professionals.

To find out more and download the application for free: https://oncodol.app