Mole Mapper brings open data for cancer research

A new report in Nature Scientific Data explains how researchers can access and use the growing trove of data coming from users of Mole Mapper, a mobile app for tracking suspicious nevi.


Mole_Mapper_Zones (1)Mole Mapper gives users the option to contribute to melanoma research by sharing anonymous images that show how moles evolve over time, potentially advancing toward malignancy. Investigators with Institutional Review Board oversight can access this user-generated data.

More than 11,000 users have downloaded the Mole Mapper app since its debut in October 2015. As of June 2016, nearly 2,800 (more than 25%) had chosen to enroll and contribute their data to the study, according to the Nature Scientific Data paper.

The app uses photographic comparisons to a reference item of known size, such as a coin, to measure moles in millimeters. Repeated measurements and images make it possible to assess longitudinal changes – a resource that should become more valuable as participants continue to contribute images.

The Mole Mapper project fits with an effort by Sage Bionetworks to make scientific data more open to sharing among qualified researchers. “It is truly a credit to the study participants who have agreed to broadly share these data with the research community,” study senior author Brian M. Bot told OHSU News. “We as researchers owe it to the participants in these studies to reimagine how data are collected and shared in an effort to accelerate the research process.”

Co-authors include OHSU’s Lisa Domenico, Tracy Petrie, Ph.D., and Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s Melanoma Research Program and chair of the Department of Dermatology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

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The Mole Mapper Study, mobile phone skin imaging and melanoma risk data collected using ResearchKit by
Dan E. Webster, Christine Suver, Megan Doerr, Erin Mounts, Lisa Domenico, Tracy Petrie, Sancy A. Leachman, Andrew D. Trister and Brian M. Bot, Nature Scientific Data (February 14, 2017)

Mole Mapper app ‘crowd-sources’ photos for skin cancer research, prevention by Amanda Gibbs, OHSU News (February 14, 2017)