Blockchain technology was originally designed to facilitate the safe transfer and storage of bitcoin, the world’s first and most popular cryptocurrency. As cybersecurity threats have grown over the years, however, the technology has been used in many different industries to keep sensitive data safe, particularly in finance and healthcare.
In healthcare, one of the most exciting uses for blockchain technology is in cancer research. Cancer continues to be extremely difficult to treat, and in some cases, very difficult to detect as well. Blockchain might not yet offer a cure for cancer, but it is helping researchers and patients in a few different ways.
Blockchain Improving Access to Screening Programs
Many people globally do not have access to cancer screening programs. Without screening, patients who develop cancer have much higher mortality rates, since treatment is most successful when the cancer cells have not had the opportunity to grow for long.
Blockchain could improve access to these screening programs by allowing researchers to securely evaluate at-risk populations. By offering a secure, global database, cancer patients can opt-in to sharing their data with researchers, for the purposes of studying data patterns, particularly in developing countries. Then, these data can be used to find the groups that are most in need of screening.
By giving researchers new insights into areas of high need, blockchain can facilitate access to cancer screening tests like ultrasounds, Pap tests, and colonoscopies in communities where it is difficult to get screened. The resources can be directed to the areas where they are most needed.
Cell Therapy: a More Precise Form of Treatment
Screening is absolutely crucial in fighting cancer, but it’s only the first step on the road to recovery. Blockchain can prove beneficial in treating cancer, in addition to detecting it. One of the latest therapies for cancer treatment, cell therapy, a precise procedure that is usually the last hope for patients.
In cell therapy, cells are removed from the patient and sent out to a lab for treatment. They must then be returned and implanted into the patient. Because this exchange process is extremely high-risk and could result in errors (the wrong cells sent back to the oncology team), blockchain technology offers some insurance for patients and doctors.
Using the encryption and distributed ledgers of a blockchain, a German company has created a solution specifically for the cell therapy supply chain to ensure privacy and accuracy. Cell therapy is not built on blockchain technology, but the blockchain is used to protect against errors during the process to ensure that the patient maintains their privacy and have the best chance of successful treatment.
Blockchain Improving Access & Anonymity of Data
Data is powerful in healthcare, but it currently has its limitations. Understandably, many people are concerned about security and privacy. Many don’t feel comfortable sharing their data, even in the name of public health if their privacy can’t be protected.
With traditional cybersecurity solutions, data breaches are almost inevitable at a certain point. We’ve all heard of high-profile breaches affecting large healthcare organizations. The blockchain offers hope for a better solution, with enhanced security and even anonymity.
Blockchain technology could empower doctors and patients by allowing for the safe collection of vital biostatistics while providing patients with anonymity and security. The more information we can collect, the better it will be for cancer patients in the future, and the blockchain gives us a tool to make sharing data safer and more appealing.
Blockchain Providing a Decentralized Solution
One of the biggest problems in healthcare is a lack of communication. It has always been a challenge in the past for doctors and researchers to collaborate and study trends, due to limitations of technology and lack of trust between parties. But if we really want to find a cure for cancer, then the greatest minds in medicine need to be able to work together seamlessly and share information.
Blockchain has the potential to facilitate this kind of game-changing global collaboration. The information would be collectively owned and stored, resulting in a system that doesn’t require trust between parties or a centralized seat of control. Ultimately, we’ll need that decentralization to find the solution to this insidious disease that can affect nearly every region of the body in every population.
We’re still a long way from a cure. But with blockchain technology, we might be closer than we’ve ever been before.