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MD Anderson Cancer Center turns to Apple Watch for breast cancer treatment

The MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper is using the Apple Watch to improve the treament regimens of breast cancer patients, citing the advantages of wearables in getting people to change their behavior.

In a pilot project, the New Jersey-based center is partnering with Polaris Health Directions to fit about 30 patients with 38mm Sport models, each with a pink strap, mHealth News reported this week. Polaris will underwrite the Watches, and is developing a HealthKit-compatible app to go with it. The company's senior VP of Labs and Innovation, Mark Redlus, said that future projects could make use of ResearchKit.

The app will connect to Polaris' Polestar behavioral health outcomes management platform, and give both patients and healthcare providers a way of monitoring things like activity, moods, and sleep. Patients will reportedly be taught about their own behaviors, and might receive alerts if for instance they're not getting enough exercise.

The project will cover people during two stages of cancer: the first immediately after they've been diagnosed, the second after treatment is finished. In both cases, the concern is how patients cope with anxiety and depression.

Efforts will be subject to review and approval by the Cooper Institutional Review Board, while MD Anderson Cooper will pick the patients and run treatment.

Although the device's sensors only track motion and heartrate, a handful of medical programs involving the Apple Watch have been announced since the product's launch last month. Earlier in May for example, Louisiana's Ochsner Health System began a trial using the Watch to treat hypertension.