FAQs About Cancer Commons Patient Services

Overview of Our Services

Q: What services does Cancer Commons provide?

A: Our primary goal is to help you or your loved one identify and access your best-possible treatments. We help you create a personalized plan of action that you share with your oncologist. While corresponding with us, you may receive:

  • Information about treatment options and treatment expectations
  • Information about molecular testing services that could help guide your or your loved one’s treatment
  • Information about second/additional opinions
  • A list of clinical trials that are most relevant for you or your loved one
  • A list of cancer type-specific experts, center-of-excellence/high-volume clinics, and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers

Q: What does Cancer Commons provide that I cannot find anywhere else?

A:  Cancer Commons provides you with one-on-one support from a PhD scientist who is dedicated to understanding every detail of your or your loved one’s specific case. Your scientist uses that information to provide you with up-to-date, evidence-based information personally tailored to you and your goals. This service is delivered with clarity and compassion, without any conflicts of interest.

Q: Which cancer types does Cancer Commons address?

A:  We serve patients with any type of cancer. Many people have come to us for guidance on all of the common types of cancer, especially breast, lung, skin, colorectal, and prostate cancers. We also have a special focus on brain, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, and we have provided guidance to many people dealing with uncommon types of cancer.

Q: How does Cancer Commons communicate with patients and caregivers?

A: We communicate with patients and caregivers via their preferred method of communication. Emails are a good way to make sure we capture information in your records. Phone calls or personal meetings are sometimes scheduled, as appropriate.

Q: What happens after I sign up?

A: After you register, a Cancer Commons Navigator will contact you. You will be asked about your treatment goals and to provide relevant medical records that will help our team understand your diagnosis, treatment history, and other pertinent information. You will also be asked to sign an observational study consent that allows us to track your progress over time. Coordinating what we learn from all patients is our unique strength. It enables us to identify the treatments that are working best for patients like you.

The navigator will match you with one of our PhD scientists who will research all therapeutic and diagnostic options available for you. Your Cancer Commons scientist will compile the best options into an easy-to-understand action plan that you can discuss with your oncologist. The final decision regarding tests and treatments is always up to you and your care team. We may also help facilitate access to the desired tests and treatments.

Q: What information does Cancer Commons collect about my situation and treatment goals?

A: We ask you to provide all relevant medical records, including clinic notes, scans, diagnostic reports, prior treatment records, ability to travel, and related facts that may inform your or your loved one’s treatment options and decisions. We ask questions about the type of help you are looking for and seek to understand your priorities.

Q: What qualifications does my Cancer Commons scientist have?

A: Each of our Cancer Commons scientists is a PhD-level oncology expert committed to keeping abreast of the most cutting-edge cancer research, tests, and treatments available—and how to access them. Their backgrounds in molecular and clinical research enable them to quickly and keenly scrutinize the current cancer landscape and home in on important information for you to consider when making decisions for yourself or your loved one. They understand their limits and know when to consult other experts for deeper insights.

Q: How much do Cancer Commons’ services cost?

A: Our action plans are complimentary for patients and caregivers and are supported entirely by philanthropy.

Q: Why is my cancer type not listed?

A: We are currently working to add more cancer types to our About Your Cancer section. However, our expert team is fully equipped to help anyone with any kind of cancer identify and access their best-possible treatment. Please feel free to contact us for an action plan, no matter what kind of cancer you or your loved one may have.

Q: Does Cancer Commons coordinate with my doctor?

A: As a rule, we communicate directly with patients or caregivers. We encourage you to discuss anything you learn from us with your oncologist and will only communicate with your doctor upon your request. Final decisions about treatment, tests, and other aspects of care are always up to you and your medical team.

Molecular Testing and Tumor Boards

Q: What is molecular testing?

A: Depending on a patient’s specific diagnosis, a key step to finding the best treatment may be molecular testing of their tumor tissue. This type of laboratory test could reveal distinct features, such as genetic mutations that can be targeted by specific treatments (“matched therapy” or “targeted therapy”). These treatments may already be FDA-approved, or they may be available off label or via clinical trials. Patients treated with matched therapies selected through molecular testing may have better outcomes.

Q: How does molecular testing fit into Cancer Commons’ services?

A: Cancer Commons encourages patients to speak with their physicians about the benefits of molecular testing and support patients in initiating testing performed on their tumor tissue or blood sample.

Who We Help

Q: What stage of cancer do patients have when they seek help from Cancer Commons?

A: We provide guidance to patients at any stage of their disease. However, many patients seek our services when they are in an advanced stage of their disease, after they have followed a recommended standard of care treatment plan.

Q: What are the main challenges faced by patients who seek support from Cancer Commons?

A: Patients who come to us face a variety of challenges, including:

  • How to navigate their treatment and diagnostic options
  • How to find trustworthy information and cancer-specific specialists
  • Which additional testing may be appropriate
  • How to choose between options when there is not sufficient clinical evidence—especially in later-line treatments

Q: How many patients who seek support from Cancer Commons have already been given treatment options by their medical team? 

A: Almost all patients receive some form of guidance on their options from their treating physicians as their case management proceeds. But many who turn to Cancer Commons have been told by their treating physicians that nothing more can be done for them, and they wonder if other potential options exist—particularly in the form of clinical trials or cancer clinics with expertise that may be relevant to the patient’s unique case.

Q: How many patients who seek support from Cancer Commons many have already done molecular testing? 

A: About 50% of the patients we support already have some molecular testing results when they first come to us. In most cases, this means they have been tested for just one or a few specific molecular features of their cancer that could help guide treatment. But no more than 10% to 20% have had comprehensive mutational testing prior to signing up for our services. A comprehensive mutational test evaluates hundreds of genes that are often altered in cancer. For some patients, this could further expand treatment options.

Our Impact

Q: How many patients has Cancer Commons helped?

 A: We have engaged with and helped more than 10,000 patients and caregivers.

Q: What value does Cancer Commons provide to patients?

A: A patient or caregiver who uses our services may benefit from:

  • Help with navigation of the complicated cancer treatment landscape
  • Information about their specific disease, including the science behind their molecular alterations
  • Information about treatment options to consider
  • Help with matching to an appropriate clinical trial
  • Information about care in another city, at another institution, or from another physician
  • Empowerment to advocate for themselves or for their loved ones

Q: What have patients said about Cancer Commons’ services?

A: Patients and caregivers have told us that they appreciate the responsiveness of our caring Cancer Commons scientists, the opportunity to learn what further treatment may or may not be available to them, and new knowledge about their own particular type of cancer.

Based on the feedback we receive, we believe that most patients we’ve helped feel that they were provided with additional possible treatment and testing options, provided with information about second/additional opinions, treated with respect, and given realistic—not false—hope. We believe that a successful interaction between a patient and Cancer Commons results in the patient being at peace that they have done the best they could to deal with their difficult situation.