Since Elon Musk bought Twitter in October 2022, the site has seen a lot of changes, including a recent rebranding to “X.”1
Many of the changes — such as charging for verification, limiting the number of tweets users can read, and preventing them from retweeting certain posts — have prompted some users to migrate to other social media platforms.1-5
There’s been widespread speculation that users will continue to leave and Twitter will go the way of sites like MySpace and Vine. This would put an end to #MedTwitter — a space where medical research and insights are shared by medical professionals, researchers, patients, and organizations.6
Losing this community could greatly impact all of these parties, according to users.
“Twitter is such an extensive network we didn’t know we needed. Now, we can’t live without it,” said Tanya Dorff, MD, section chief of the genitourinary disease program at City of Hope in Duarte, California.
Exchanging Information, Ideas
For now, there is still a critical mass of medical professionals, researchers, and patients on Twitter who can exchange information and ideas in a manner that’s hard to do elsewhere with exactly the same transparency or sense of community.7-10
“I like that Twitter raises patient voices and perspectives into my awareness in a way I don’t necessarily hear in the clinic,” said Stephanie Graff, MD, associate professor of medicine at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and director of breast oncology at Lifespan Cancer Institute in Providence, Rhode Island.
Dr Graff added that she values Twitter “for sharing and consuming recent work. It isn’t unusual that I see papers, press releases, or news first on Twitter.”
Dr Dorff said she primarily uses Twitter when attending medical conferences “as a way to highlight important changes based on new data. If I miss a conference, I check in on Twitter about what was presented and how people reacted to it.”
Twitter has become a forum for discussions and debates on research in general but particularly on studies presented at medical conferences.7,9 This allows interested parties to weigh in on discussions that can have practical applications across specialties.
A recent example is exchanges about data from 2 trials on rectal cancer — PRODIGE 23 and PROSPECT — that were presented at ASCO 2023, said Mark Lewis, MD, a medical oncologist and director of gastrointestinal oncology at Intermountain Health in Murray, Utah.11,12
The trial results “arguably changed our therapeutic paradigm, and there was a vigorous discussion necessarily involving the relevant specialties — radiation, surgical, and medical oncology — on how best to sequence treatment for the best possible outcomes,” Dr Lewis said. “In its best incarnation, Twitter serves as a forum for precisely these exchanges when new trials require us to be fluid in our thinking and in adapting our practice along with our colleagues.”
Medical professionals and patients alike can benefit from the scientific information shared on Twitter.7-10
“I use hashtags to look for information, and patients can seek it out from big meetings like ASCO or the American Society of Hematology,” said Michael Thompson, MD, PhD, vice president of clinical partnerships at Tempus Labs, Inc.
“I create top picks for myeloma abstracts from meetings at #myeloma. I look at what others have posted and can quickly see what different world experts have picked. This helps me provide feedback for patients and advocates who look forward to my review every year.”
Dr Thompson noted that, for a rare cancer like multiple myeloma, patients can find basic information in 5 minutes and next-level information in a few hours on Twitter.
Expanding Networks, Career Advancement
Twitter can also help expand networks. “It creates opportunity for collaboration and helps you to become part of the oncology community, to feel more in touch,” Dr Dorff said. “It’s helpful to engage with colleagues in a quick way. I support colleagues’ tweets about an article I find valuable by retweeting to support their efforts.”
Younger researchers and medical professionals may also use Twitter to have their voices heard.
“Twitter gives me a platform to demonstrate, as an early career scientist, the vision for my research and why I do that research in the niche field of Pacific Island health,” said Kekoa Taparra, MD, PhD, a fourth-year resident in radiation oncology at Stanford Medicine in California.
Dr Taparra has received opportunities through Twitter to present grand rounds at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and to talk in front of the US Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry.
This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor
1. Silberling A, Stringer A. Elon Musk’s Twitter (now X): Everything you need to know, from layoffs to verification. TechCrunch. Published July 28, 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023.
2. Zavarise I. Migration to other social media platforms shows no signs of slowing following Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover at Twitter, report says. Insider. Published December 4, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023.
3. Ma M. The psychology of Mastodon: The great migration from Twitter. Psychology Today. Published on December 23, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023.
4. Fiesler C. Meta’s Threads is surging, but mass migration from Twitter is likely to remain an uphill battle. The Conversation. Published July 9, 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023.
5. Romano A. The weird sorrow of losing Twitter. Vox. Updated July 24, 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023.
6. Khan M. #MedTwitter: The good, the bad, and the surprisingly useful. NEJM Journal Watch. Published April 5, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023.
7. Chidharla A, Utengen A, Attai DJ, et al. Social media and professional development for oncology professionals. JCO Oncol Pract. 2022;18(8):566-571. doi:10.1200/OP.21.00761
8. Katz MS, Anderson PF, Thompson MA, et al. Organizing online health content: developing hashtag collections for healthier Internet-based people and communities. JCO Clin Cancer Inform. 2019;3:1-10. doi:10.1200/CCI.18.00124
9. Sedrak MS, Dizon DS, Anderson PF, et al. The emerging role of professional social media use in oncology. Future Oncol. 2017;13(15):1281-1285. doi:10.2217/fon-2017-0161
10. Attai DJ, Anderson PF, Fisch MJ, et al. Risks and benefits of Twitter use by hematologists/oncologists in the era of digital medicine. Semin Hematol. 2017;54(4):198-204. doi: 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2017.08.001
11. Conroy T, Etienne P-L, Rio E, et al. Total neoadjuvant therapy with mFOLFIRINOX versus preoperative chemoradiation in patients with locally advanced rectal cancer: 7-year results of PRODIGE 23 phase III trial, a UNICANCER GI trial. ASCO 2023. June 2-6, 2023. Abstract LBA3504.
12. Schrag D, Shi Q, Weiser MR, et al. PROSPECT: A randomized phase III trial of neoadjuvant chemoradiation versus neoadjuvant FOLFOX chemotherapy with selective use of chemoradiation, followed by total mesorectal excision (TME) for treatment of locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) (Alliance N1048). ASCO 2023. June 2-6, 2023. Abstract LBA2.