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Wisconsin doctors develop app to speed up treatment for patients with brain metastases

Posted at 6:32 PM, Aug 12, 2021

MILWAUKEE — Two Wisconsin doctors have developed an app that is speeding up critical treatment for patients whose cancer has spread to the brain.

The app, called NIMBLE, debuted last year amid the pandemic, and one of its creators said since then 250 patients have been helped. NIMBLE is an acronym that stands for Network for the Integrated Management of Brain Metastases Linking Experts.

NIMBLE allows doctors and experts to communicate instantly and create complex care plans more quickly by converting a weekly in-person meeting into a real-time virtual discussion.

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Dr. Joseph Bovi, a radiation oncologist, and Dr. Christopher Schultz, chair of Radiation Oncology within the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network, came up with the idea.

Dr. Bovi said the app allows them to create care plans within hours instead of days. He added that more than 120 physicians are using the app on Froedtert's campus.

"The benefit with that is patients with brain metastases don’t always present one day a week. It’s not uncommon that we would have our meeting on Wednesday and a patient with brain metastases would present on a Thursday, and we don’t have the luxury to wait for another week before creating that plan of care," Dr. Bovi said.

"That allows us to decrease the length of stay for patients in the hospital and to create these plans of care faster, so that we can initiate treatment faster."

Specialists reported 20 to 40 percent of people who have cancer will see it spread to their brain at some point.

It happened to Mike Hamann, an educator, husband, and father from Wauwatosa, whose cancer started in his kidneys.

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Once it reached his brain, Hermann said his medical oncologist and Dr. Bovi were on the app immediately discussing the treatment option he wanted, and ultimately received it in a matter of days.

"For me, time is of the essence, and it's allowed me to be able to get up the next day after treatment and the following day go to a Brewers game," Hamann said.

As fate would have it, Hamann ran into Dr. Bovi at that Brewers game, a moment both men feel was special.

Mike Hamann and Dr. Joseph Bovi

"Those little things I’m very thankful for," Hamann said. "Some days are better than others, but I’m thankful that I’m able to spend time with my family, my wife, and my daughter."

The makers believe the NIMBLE app and the technology it uses can help colleagues in other disciplines, from cardiology to diabetes and beyond.

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