Effectiveness of mHealth apps on adherence and symptoms to oral anticancer medications: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Support Care Cancer. 2024 Jun 12;32(7):426. doi: 10.1007/s00520-024-08635-8.


Purpose: Despite the rapid expansion of mHealth apps, their adoption has not always been based on evidence of effectiveness on patient outcomes. This systematic review aimed to determine the effect of mHealth apps on adherence and symptom to oral anticancer medications (OAMs) and identify the app design that led to such effects.

Methods: Pubmed, Cochrane Central, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and WoS were searched from inception to April 2023. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated effects of mHealth apps on primary outcomes OAM adherence and symptom burden were included. Two reviewers independently assessed risk-of-bias using Cochrane Risk-of-Bias version 2 and extracted the data. Quality of evidence was assessed using GRADE. The protocol was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42023406024).

Results: Four RCTs involving 806 patients with cancer met the eligibility criteria. mHealth apps features included a combinations of symptom reporting, medication reminder, automated alert to care team, OAM and side effect information, one study implemented structured follow-up by a nurse. The intervention group showed no significant difference in OAM adherence (relative ratio 1.20; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.43), but significantly improved symptoms to OAMs with a lower standardised mean symptom burden score of 0.49 (SMD - 0.49; 95% CI - 0.93 to - 0.06), and a 25% lower risk of grade 3 or 4 toxicity (risk ratio 0.75; 95% CI 0.58 to 0.95) compared to usual care.

Conclusion: These findings suggest a potential role for mHealth app in managing OAM side effect. Further research should explore the role of AI-guided algorithmic pathways on the interactive features of mHealth apps.

Keywords: Cancer; Medication adherence; Oral anticancer medications; Symptom; Systematic review; mHealth app.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence*
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Telemedicine*


  • Antineoplastic Agents