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Cancer Goes Viral for Young Adults - Fosters Social Networking, Survivorship and Community


BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Two new support websites have harnessed the power of social media and are rapidly changing the way that adolescents and young adults affected by cancer deal with the disease, socially network and benefit from trusted content.

Launched by Steps For Living in December, 2006, and its MySpace counterpart,, are part of a progressive, hip new youth culture brand, i[2]y, that is bridging a critical communications gap for the cancer community. These one-stop portals facilitate social networking and engender community wealth by connecting the dots between patient, provider and psychosocial support programs and services. Visitors to the sites gain unprecedented access to credentialed, peer-developed directories of support organizations, forums, blogs, chat rooms, advocacy tools, camp retreats and more.

“The convergence of social media with cancer advocacy, coupled with recent polling data about AYA consumer trends, demands new models in survivorship programming for the youth cancer culture,” said Matthew Zachary, founder and executive director of Steps For Living and an 11-year young adult survivor of pediatric brain cancer. “Within a week of our MySpace launch, we had 450 friends and a wellspring of subsequent web hits. We’re meeting a real need as access to vetted and trustworthy content is tantamount to resource literacy and increased quality of life.”

Since it’s launch, i[2]y has spawned an affiliate network of over 110 cancer treatment centers, including Dana Farber, MD Anderson, Mayo Clinic, Sloan Kettering and St. Jude, along with chapters of The American Cancer Society and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, all of whom distribute i[2]y literature, promoting the site and it’s content to their AYA populations.

“We are excited about this project,” says Barbara Jones, PhD, MSW, President of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers. “Not only does i[2]y have the potential to empower adolescents and young adults with cancer, it can assist pediatric oncology social workers in supporting their young patients through patient education and provider resource literacy.”

Steps For Living has launched a capital campaign to underwrite development for upscaling the i[2]y website to include tagging, user comments, five-star ratings and tie-ins to existing social media. The organization is also investigating a cause-brand alliance with a corporate partner to develop an i[2]y documentary film and distribute free copies of an i[2]y benefit CD to survivors.


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