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Crowdsourcing Metastatic Data

Beth Caldwell tells the Associated Press that she enrolled in the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project from a chair in her living room and collected her saliva sample while in bed.

Caldwell was diagnosed with has metastatic breast cancer in 2014 and the project she's taking part in aims to collect molecular and genetic data from metastatic breast cancer patients to study what makes tumors that recur in the brain different or why some cancers come back years after the original disease. From this, researchers hope to develop new treatment approaches, the AP adds.

"Metastatic breast cancer in general is an understudied area," Marc Hurlbert from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation tells the AP. "We don't know, for example, how the tumor has changed. Is it the same makeup as it was before? Do cells have a different molecular profile than cancer that started first in the breast?"

So far, the project has enrolled some 2,600, mostly through word-of-mouth and social media. "This project makes them feel empowered, makes them feel like they are making a difference — if not to help themselves, then maybe the next generation of patients," project leader Nikhil Wagle from Harvard and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute adds.