1. Butcher, Lola

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Gamification returns to oncology with the launch of Oncology Guru, an online game that allows oncologists and hematologists to test their knowledge-and educate themselves about cancer care-by participating in a daily quiz. The new game was created by oncologist Stanley Winokur, MD, a consultant for Prime Oncology, who previously founded "The Smartest Oncologist" (OT 12/25/07 issue) and co-edited The Big Casino: America's Best Cancer Doctors Share Their Most Powerful Stories (OT 9/25/14 issue).

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At the site,, Physicians compete against one another-but mostly against themselves-to test their knowledge of national guidelines and new findings from late-stage clinical trials.


Each daily quiz includes four questions that follow this general format-for example:

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"Ramucirumab is a recently approved monoclonal antibody for the treatment of:


a) Advanced or metastatic gastric cancer and GE junction adenocarcinoma on or after progression on fluoropyrmidines or platinum;


b) Advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma in second line;


c) Advanced esophageal cancer;


d) Metastatic colorectal cancer after progression on fluoropyrimidine-oxaliplatin based therapy, anti-VEGF agent, and if KRAS wildtype, an anti-EGFR agent.



What is the standard of care for newly diagnosed extensive stage SCLC?


a) A platinum agent and etoposide


b) Topotecan


c) Cisplatin, paclitaxel, and etoposide


d) Cisplatin and irinotecan."



Questions and answers are written by employees of a medical education company, although oncologists are invited to submit questions for consideration. The game is funded by educational grants from corporations, but the game's website and daily emails do not include advertising.


How does Oncology Guru help physicians learn?

"Because of the tremendous advances that have been made in the treatment of cancer, physicians are being bombarded with new information that they must know about because they want to do the right thing for their patients. But one of their biggest concerns is lack of time. So the game allows players to test their knowledge of four questions-it takes less than a minute-on each of seven days a week, and they immediately find out if they knew the right answer, and, if they did not, they learn what the right answer is and the reference for that answer.


"References include The MD Anderson Manual of Medical Oncology, Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology: Primer of the Molecular Biology of Cancer [published by OT's publisher, Wolters Kluwer] and guidelines published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Hematology, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

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"On the results page, players have the opportunity to say 'I don't agree with this answer.' Any player who does that will receive a response within 24 hours that says, 'Here's the reference. If you disagree, let us know." Some answers are going to change very quickly after the questions are added to the game because new drugs are approved or study results are published. So we have to continually update the answers."


What is the "guru question"?

"For the four fact-based questions in the daily quiz, the player is seeking wisdom from the game. But the fifth question-the guru question-asks the player to share his or her opinion or perspective. For example, a guru question might be: 'Which of the following areas of your practice gives you the most satisfaction? (a) breast cancer, (b) lung cancer, (c) GI cancer, (d) hematologic cancers, or (e) GU cancers?'


"We will then use that information from players to report the Oncology Daily Update, which will be something like: 'Last week we asked 1,000 doctors which areas of practice give the most satisfaction, and this is what they said...' That lets the oncologists who play the game become the source of information-the guru. We are all teachers, and we are all learners."


Other than bragging rights, does the winning "guru" receive anything?

"Players compete in the geographic region in which they work. The person who has the most right answers-the guru, if you will-for a given region at the end of a month will get to have a consultation with a member of the Oncology Guru faculty.


"Each of our faculty members has agreed to provide a one-hour consultation. So a winner might say 'Oh, I need some help with lung cancer,' and they look at the list of faculty and say 'Oh my gosh-Mark A. Socinski [MD, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center] is a pretty smart oncologist and I don't normally have access to him.' So that is a great incentive for playing the game."


That sounds like a tempting prize. Can a player spend a weekend working through all the questions, memorizing the answers and increasing the likelihood of being that month's winner?

"A player never gets the same question twice until he or she has answered all of the thousands of questions that are in the game. The computer knows every single question that you got right or wrong, and, after you have answered a question correctly, you will never see that question again."


Continuing Series

The full archive of Oncology Social Media Profiles can be found in this Collection on the OT website: