National Cancer Institute awards $3.1M grant to smoking-cessation app maker

By Aditi Pai
09:38 am
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SmartQuitThe National Cancer Institute has awarded Jonathan Bricker, a behavioral scientist and faculty member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, with a five-year, $3.1 million grant to conduct a randomized controlled trial of SmartQuit, a smoking-cessation app.

SmartQuit is based on acceptance and commitment therapy, or an ACT-based program, that "focuses on increasing one’s willingness to accept the physical, mental and emotional challenges of quitting while also encouraging commitment to engage in values-based behavior change," according to a statement from the center. Using this method, the user is, among other things, tracking their urges rather than tracking their smokes.

This trial will build on a study that Bricker conducted at the end of 2014 with Seattle-based behavior change company 2Morrow, which was funded by the Hartwell Innovation Fund. 2Morrow partnered with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to create the app.

Th previous randomized control trial Bricker conducted, of 196 participants, found that users of SmartQuit were 2.5 to 3 times more likely to quit than those who try to quit on their own. The researchers also found that SmartQuit was 60 percent more effective than the National Cancer Institute’s application for smoking cessation, called QuitGuide. 

“The funding gives us an amazing opportunity to update our SmartQuit app with state-of-the-art computer science and psychology technologies closely informed by several years of research we have done on prior versions of the app,” Bricker said in a statement.

After updating the app, Bricker aims to launch a nationwide, randomized controlled trial of SmartQuit next year. This study will recruit more than 1,600 adult smokers and compare SmartQuit with an app that follows the US Clinical Practice Guidelines. Bricker explained that the goal of this study is to determine whether SmartQuit is effective for smoking cessation.

“These are exciting times in the mobile health space,” Bricker said. “There is a wide chasm between what is available on the market … and what is actually proven to work. We feel very fortunate to lead these efforts to impact the science of mobile health and address the critical need for low-cost, high-impact smoking-cessation programming.”

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