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Magazines > Online > May/June 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 3 — May/June 2004
ContentScan's Cancer Dome
By Suzanne Sabroski

The Big C—cancer—is the focus of ContentScan's newest Dome product.

Adding to its discipline-specific Dome database products in neurology (NeuroDome) and communication disorders (ComDisDome), privately held ContentScan, Inc. has brought its model of expert editorial input to the field of clinical and research oncology.

CancerDome content includes books, dissertations, journal articles, grants, research and academic institution profiles, author profiles, and expert selected Web sites. It lays claim to the largest collection of active authors publishing on cancer-related topics, providing a new pathway to this content. Continuously updated and accessible either from a library's OpenURL linking, site licensing, and direct links to content providers, CancerDome attempts to "ensure that resources are relevant to the study of cancer" and to "provide a focused, productive search experience for both expert and beginning users."


Visitors to CancerDome are immediately reminded that they are not aimlessly searching the Internet. Content descriptions are linked for oncology educators, clinicians, researchers, and students. Within sub-headings of "The Challenge" and "The Solution," the proliferation of medical information is laid out and the frustrations of general Web searching are stated. To make this point further, the FAQ even includes a chart comparing CancerDome to Google, Amazon, PubMed, and ERIC.

CancerDome places its emphasis upon the expert selection of sources—and an environment of professionalism is immediately established with the introduction of Dr. Asad Bashey as editor-in-chief. The introductory material provides an effective mix of anticipating user needs and explaining what exists within the site, setting the expectation that proper medical terminology is being used.


Three initial options appear—Search, Browse, or Save & Share. Search brings up a simple search box, while Browse lets you choose between Cancer Corner, which contains links to associations, societies, foundations, patient support groups, manufacturers, funding sources, treatment and research centers, and conferences, and Topic Guide, which includes a hierarchical list of 25,000 topics allowing a drill-down, guided search to resources on cancer topics. Save & Share is a search management feature that can annotate results using My Shared Folders.

To demonstrate the importance of terminology, I entered the term lymphoma in the search box. This returned 36,025 articles, 100 books, 8,838 Web resources, and 127 selected authors. An Institutions tab showed zero, and at the time of this review, the Grants tab was linked to a "coming soon" page. A Topic Guide appeared with a list of 10 links categorized by types of lymphoma. I was given the option to sort by keyword, date, and first author, or click on a bar to see results in PubMed.

With too many results to sift through, I entered the term Hodgkin's lymphoma. This returned 11,897 articles, 47 books, 3,291 Web resources, and 139 selected authors. Ten selections appear in the Topic Guide specifying types of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

To narrow this further I entered pediatric Hodgkin's lymphoma in the search box, which returned 349 articles, 8 books, 770 Web resources, and 196 selected authors. Four selections appeared in the Topic Guide, one for each stage of the disease.

"Sort by date" produced several pages with 10 articles apiece, showing those published within just the past few months. "Sort by keyword" did not accomplish much; its value in this situation is unclear because it turned up many articles about non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a term for a set of separate diseases) and I was already under the assumption that I was looking at articles about my topic. It would be useful to have a NOT feature at this point, or some way to eliminate unwanted results. "Sort by first author" presented the same 349 articles by alphabetical listing of authors. In all presentations, each article was linked to an abstract and full citation.

So was I looking at the most current articles? The "See Results in PubMed" bar imported my search terms into PubMed. It also displayed 349 articles, but returned several newer citations. Curious, I clicked on "Learn More," which provided the following explanation: "CancerDome—search only selected journal articles in the field of fields of Cancer and Oncology Research; PubMed—search all journal articles from PubMed, not filtered by field."


Back to CancerDome, "Get this Article" took me to a page with options to connect to Infotrieve, password-protected links to aggregators CSIRO and EBSCO, a TOXNET link, and two free links to MEDLINEPlus. A pleasant surprise at the bottom of the page was "Libraries—Find this article at a library near you," which presented a list of university and medical libraries throughout the U.S. that subscribe to the cited journal, and if the libraries held a print or electronic subscription. (Not to go too far off on a tangent, but could this be useful as competitive intelligence—a way to see who subscribes to what?)

A bar at the bottom of the article display page gave the option to export citations to EndNote, RefManager, or ProCite. A link was provided to send feedback about these results directly to CancerDome to discuss findings, suggest a topic, or ask for clarification from the CancerDome editors.

Within a majority of the article citations, at least one author name was hotlinked to a Selected Author Details page. The example I looked at provided the physician's personal faculty Web page with contact details and a photo, the Web page of her hospital affiliation, a list of all her articles indexed by CancerDome, and links to each article.

All along in the search process the Save & Share feature was available, billed as "your personal storage and sharing center." Suggested uses were to create and send resource lists to patients with commentary; generate reading lists for students or classes, and, interestingly, "instantly send evidence from the literature to insurance providers for faster reimbursement." You can send results to a private or a shared folder, or post on your personal Dome Web page.

Testing out the Topic Guide to the right of the screen, I clicked on Stage IV Pediatric Hodgkin's Lymphoma. This produced one book, 55 articles, 80 Web sites, and 71 selected authors. Clicking on the book took me to the Dome bookstore with details on the publication—a medical textbook—and the option to order one of two copies in stock.

The Web Resources tab produced a list of 80 sites, with the context of the reference, name of the site, URL, and a "more matches at this site" option. Searching still needed to be done at some of the sites, while others produced a deep link. The results were all relevant to the particulars of the disease. The first hit was a newly updated PDQ (physician data query) from the National Cancer Institute, a entry dated 1998, current news from major associations and support networks, and ongoing clinical trial information.


Back at the beginning of the site, the Browse feature produced two choices—CancerCorner and Topic Guide. CancerCorner brought up an excellent mix of associations and societies, manufacturers with selections such as biotechnology companies and research equipment, funding sources, treatment and research centers, and a conference calendar. Topic Guide offered selections such as chemotherapy regimens, diagnostic and prognostic factors, and organisms—all reflecting a high level of clinical information.

Advanced search offered three drop-down boxes to search within text, title, author, or ISBN, with limiters of all terms, any term, and exact phrase. A date limitation box is presented, along with a sort results by keyword, first author, or publication date. Entering Hodgkin's lymphoma as an exact phrase in the title and adding pediatrics within the text produced 148 articles, 540 Web resources, and 147 author profiles. "Sort by date" brought up mostly the same articles I had seen already. Again, my complaint was seeing too many articles about non-Hodgkin's lymphoma—still no NOT feature. This time, however, 128 institutions appeared in the results tab. This was helpful as it contained details on medical facilities with pediatric hematology/oncology departments, department profiles, and staff contact details.

Though not presented as an option, I was able to truncate the term lymphoma with an asterisk; lymph• returned over 125,000 articles while lymph returned just over 27,000.


It is widely known that health and medical information is the number-one reason people go the Internet. In particular, there is more information on cancer than anyone could ever find or digest. With the proliferation of reliable sources amidst the quackery of miracle cures and misinformation, products to help professionals cut through the noise of the Web and save their valuable time are needed.

Does CancerDome accomplish this? It depends who you ask. Testimonials on the site, from educators and students in particular, comment positively on the save and store features as well as the author linking capabilities. For clinicians looking for the most current information, perhaps not.

Yoav Messinger, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospitals and Clinics in St. Paul, Minnesota, spends quite a bit of time online in addition to caring for patients. Having worked with CancerDome for awhile, he was unimpressed and had the following comments. "1. The search engine is no better than PubMed, which is available free. Moreover, many articles coming up are old and not useful. 2. It does search for books. However, the books are then only available for purchase, again limiting the use of this site. 3. It is not clear to me the benefit of this site vs. other sites."

Moderately priced and perhaps most useful as an information organizing and presentation tool, CancerDome's strength lies in its save and store features, and in connecting oncology professionals. Tying Web sites into results with books, articles, and institutions is of some value, though information professionals would quickly find these sites on their own. The Browsing compilations did pull some unique content such as biotech companies and chemotherapy regimens, again tying things together neatly. Further investigation may be warranted to see if there is an embargo period on new articles and to keep an eye on PubMed entries for currency comparisons. The Grants tab, under development at the time of this review, may prove to be of value for research funding or patient resources.


Suzanne Sabroski [] is an independent information professional and writer, based in northern Minnesota.

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