Researchers Want Cancer Patients To Share Their Medical Information In Search of Cures

April Doyle, a single mom from Visalia, Cal., only lets herself look three months into her future. Since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, she’s tried a new treatment every three months to keep the cancer from spreading from her breast tissue to other parts of her body. But it returned: this time in her bone. She is almost out of options for her hard-to-treat cancer, but she finds comfort in online support groups where other women with metastatic breast cancer share their experiences. “Eventually we know we will exhaust all of our options until they keep coming up with more treatments,” she says. “It’s a scary thing.”

Now, people with cancer can do more than just wait. A new non-profit project from several leading health organizations that launched Thursday, called Count Me In, lets cancer patients send their medical information directly to researchers who are searching for cures.

Count Me In allows cancer patients to send their medical information — including blood, saliva and tumor samples — to a public database that any researcher can access. The tumor samples and blood samples are genetically sequenced, and that data, along with the patient’s medical history (including which treatments patients received and how well they worked), is then translated into an anonymous database. This information is invaluable to scientists who can use it to see patterns that might eventually lead to new understanding of how cancer works — and more importantly, to new drugs for treating it.