A new website developed at Emory is devoted to giving cancer
patients a tool to learn practical, scientific knowledge about their
illness. Called CancerQuest and found at www.cancerquest.org,
the site is designed to teach people the biology of cancer in a
clear, concise manner.
While there is a wealth of cancer news and advice on the Internet,
much of it is either very technical (designed for doctors and scientists)
or broad and simple, according to Gregg Orloff, senior lecturer
in biology, who spearheaded the development of CancerQuest.
“I found that there is not much out there that really teaches
the biology of cancer—that can explain to people what is happening
to them,” Orloff said.
While not clinical in scope, CancerQuest gives a detailed yet easy-to-grasp
overview of how cells work and what happens when they break down
and become cancerous. The site outlines the actions and effects
of various treatments—but it does not make any recommendations,
The website is structured like a textbook and features several animated
graphics to explain concepts. A dictionary is built in, so users
can quickly look up the definitions of scientific terms. All references
are documented, with links to other sites for those wanting more
information about a particular aspect of treatment or different
type of cancer. Future plans include offering the project in several
The idea for CancerQuest, which received funding through a Howard
Hughes Medical Institute grant, came to Orloff during his wife’s
experience with breast cancer. During treatment, her oncologist
recommended that she attend a support group of other breast cancer
sufferers, and she brought along her husband.
“When people realized I was a biology professor,” Orloff
said, “they began asking me a barrage of questions about cancer.
It made me realize there was a real need for information—a
hunger for it.”
In the process of creating CancerQuest, the project also became
a teaching tool for students. Orloff recruited students from his
classes with web-savvy skills and artistic ability to illustrate
and help build the site; students in his spring course on cancer
biology were required to create web presentations, which then were
incorporated into the website.
Orloff said a large-print edition is now available on the site,
and he is working on a Spanish-language version.