OnTarget: A wealth of information on the effects of targeted oral therapies in oncology

Marie-Pascale Guay
Marie-Pascale Guay

JGH pharmacist spearheads unique website for patients and healthcare professionals alike

OnTarget, a 10-year-old guide for community pharmacists who dispense oral anti-cancer medications, has taken on new life as an online sharing tool, thanks to an effort spearheaded by Marie-Pascale Guay of the JGH.

Ms. Guay,  Oncology Pharmacist Coordinator, worked with two pharmacists from the CHUM to provide broader and easier access to information for pharmacists, nurses, medical professionals and students. The result is a digital tool that’s unique in Canada.

“Patients with enough knowledge about their illness and treatment can make better choices,” she says. “At the same time, if additional tools are provided to medical professionals, they are better able to equip their patients with information on how to manage the secondary effects of their medication more effectively.”

The changes began in the early 2000s, with the emergence of a new type of therapy in oncology that did not need to be administered intravenously. Taken orally, these targeted therapies identified mutated tumors and specifically targeted them. Once the new therapies came to market, patients were able to avoid going to the hospital and, instead, could visit their local pharmacist to pick up a prescription for oral medication.

Initially, however, some were concerned that community pharmacists would not have access to tools that would enable them to properly safeguard the well-being of the cancer patients whom they served. As well, there were concerns about monitoring the secondary effects caused by oral oncology drugs, which could possibly compromise a patient’s medical outcome.

The result, in 2009, was the creation of OnTarget Resource Guide, a PDF guide that classified oncology medications and their secondary effects. However, as the years passed and more targeted therapies were developed, it became necessary to rethink the format, culminating in the April 2019 launch of OnTarget as an online information sharing tool.

Ms. Guay explains that while pharmacists in oncology may have some resources to counsel patients, the OnTarget website is the only source of information that compiles all of the scientific literature on taking control of the secondary effects of oncology drugs. Since a learning module is also available on the site, pharmacists and other professionals can continue to educate themselves and receive continuing education credits.

These efforts have drawn warm praise from Eva Cohen, Chief of the JGH Pharmacy, who says that Ms. Guay “worked diligently on this website. I strongly support her endeavor and I’m extremely impressed with her achievements in the development of the OnTarget website.”