The National Cancer Institute has awarded a $3 million five-year grant to conduct a clinical trial testing SmartQuit, a smoking cessation app, involving nearly 2,000 participants.
The award was granted to Dr. Jonathan Bricker, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. Dr. Bricker and colleagues have developed an app called SmartQuit that applies acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in addition to usual strategies to smoking cessation. As described by Bricker and colleagues,
Acceptance means making room for intense physical cravings (e.g., urges to smoke), emotions (e.g., sadness that triggers smoking), and thoughts (e.g., thoughts that trigger smoking) while allowing them to come and go. Commitment in ACT means articulating what is deeply meaningful to individuals – i.e., their values – to motivate and guide specific plans of action (e.g., stopping smoking).
In a small trial involving ~200 particpants, Dr. Bricker and colleagues compared two smoking cessation apps – SmartQuit and QuitGuide, an app from the National Cancer Institute based on the popular Smokefree.gov website. They showed that users randomized to SmartQuit opened the app more frequently and had a trend towards higher smoking cessation rates than those using QuitGuide. SmartQuit users opened their app 37 times vs. 15 times for QuitGuide over the two month study period (p<0.001). In addition, 13% of SmartQuit users also reported quitting smoking in comparison to 8% of QuitGuide users though this endpoint did not meet statistical significance. It’s hard to say whether that is simply a result of being under powered, though.
This grant will support expanding this clinical trial to a scale that could evaluate this endpoint more definitively. And hopefully, smoking cessation rates will be (1) objectively assessed and (2) tracked for a longer period than two months. The latter point is particularly important, as we know that apps have a “stickiness” problem. In other words, use of health apps tends to taper off with time. Whether SmartQuit can promote durable smoking cessation will be incredibly important to assess.