Blockchain and cancer care—maybe not the avocado and toast perfect pair you initially imagine. However, the use of blockchain and Web3 technology can greatly impact and advance cancer research, funding and patient care.
Cancer is one of the biggest medical occurrences, with an estimated 1.7 million new global cases in 2018 according to the National Cancer Institute. There are several barriers that have made it difficult to find a “cure” for cancer, from funding to awareness.
But what if that could change with blockchain technology? There’s been a lot of talk about cryptocurrency, NFTs, Web 3.0, digital assets and the metaverse over the past few months. The larger umbrella in decentralization is blockchain technology, and under that, NFTs (non-fungible tokens). We’ll be focusing on both of these under a term I call the “conscious crypto movement,” or employing blockchain technology for conscious positive impact.
WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN?
Blockchain technology is a decentralized, distributed network that records the source of a digital asset. Blockchain consists of the records called “blocks” that are used to record the transactions. On a very high but perhaps more relatable level, think of blockchain like stored medical records that won’t get changed or lost and are universally accessible.
WHAT ARE NFTS?
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are digital assets transacted and stored on the blockchain. NFTs can range from photos and videos to utility tokens and sound clips. They can even be representative of real world items, such as real estate or artwork. NFTs are pieces of data that are stored within the network which can run on a variety of blockchains, including the most talked about—Ethereum. What makes NFTs “special” or hold value is that they are indestructible, unique and verifiable.
HOW CAN BLOCKCHAIN AND NFTS BE USED IN CANCER CARE?
Some of the barriers for researching and developing cures for cancer include data challenges; complications with accessing information around newer treatments and their effectiveness; and financial backing. At the moment, the majority of developments implemented under a conscious crypto movement focus on two main themes: blockchain and NFT projects.
Gaining access to data, knowledge, trials and medical information can be almost seamlessly tracked, shared and stored via blockchain technology, empowering cancer thrivers to opt in and have access to their own data and usage. Hypertrust Patient Data Care is a German-based company that tracks medication “needle to needle” and leverages the transparency of a blockchain to improve patient outcomes. U.S.-based company OncoPower has piloted a program that will “allow oncologists access to “de-identified details like comorbidity, specific cancer type, lines of therapy and actual drugs used for treatment.”
NFT projects and collections have the power to connect communities and raise funding to empower cancer research, care and tools. Girlfrens is a Solana NFT project that raises money to bring art supplies to cancer patients, fueling the creative energy and potential of NFTs into the artistic healing space for mind and body during treatment. CrushCancer raises funds through their NFT project that donates ChemoBoxes, donations and scholarships for every NFT purchased.
WHAT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?
One of the biggest conversations and controversies around blockchain technology is the environmental toll that NFTs pose. There are quite a few other options for minting NFTs that require little to no gas fees. More options continue to become available as this is a major disadvantage and concern with increasing the usage of blockchain.
The Ethereum Merge (going from proof of work to proof of stake) is set to go live in 2022, putting energy concerns to rest when it comes to environmental impact on expended energy on the current proof or work mining. In addition to Ethereum, there are other more sustainable platforms for minting NFTs, including Polygon, Tezos, Cardana and Aspire.
HOW DOES THIS IMPACT THE FUTURE OF CANCER CARE?
Still in its infancy, the possibilities for blockchain technology in the medical field are truly endless. There may be a pivotal medical opportunity to embrace the potential of the conscious crypto movement toward cancer care, data, research and funding.
As a cancer thriver myself, I’ve never been big on the idea or feeling of a cancer warrior being a number in the chemo crowd; instead, let’s leave the zeros and ones to the blockchain technology and begin empowering thrivers with the tools, data and resources needed to make massive leaps forward.