How SurvivorNet became the leading media platform for cancer patients and survivors

SurvivorNet cofounder Steve Alperin and executive editor Alison Maxwell
SurvivorNet cofounder Steve Alperin and executive editor Alison Maxwell

Cofounder Steve Alperin and executive editor Alison Maxwell turned the site into a thriving resource hub and digital business.

Steve Alperin, a former ABC News executive, was at a loss when his father died from cancer. 

Weighed down by the fact his family didn’t have access to lifesaving resources, Alperin and Tim Langloss co-founded SurvivorNet in 2018 to help people make better decisions about cancer treatments. 

The platform has since evolved into a hub for cancer treatment options and resources, in collaboration with cancer centers including The National Cancer Institute, Cedars Sinai, Stanford and The Dana-Farber Cancer Center.

The site, which has received $8.5 million in funding, has approximately 2.5 million monthly unique visitors, growing organically by 300% in the past year. SurvivorNet has expanded into sponsorships with top pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, Merck, GSK and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Alison Maxwell, a former USA Today managing editor, came on board as executive editor of SurvivorNet in February. Maxwell also had a personal tie to the venture  she turned to SurvivorNet as a resource when her husband, Jeff Zillgitt, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015. By 2016, the stage 4 cancer had spread to his liver. Zillgitt is now cancer free, but the experience inspired Maxwell to pursue a career change.

“When the pandemic hit, I started thinking about next steps,” Maxwell told Campaign US. “I felt like, given what I had experienced, I wanted to do something that made an impact.”

SurvivorNet breaks down cancer treatment options into easy to understand terms, spotlighting viewpoints from the top cancer doctors in the country. The site also specializes in hyper-local content, featuring local stories and resources from doctors within people’s communities. SurvivorNet’s video streaming platform includes clips with doctors’ insights and short-form documentaries about people managing all aspects of cancer.

“We want to share this with our readers who aren't typically going to have access to these types of doctors,” Alperin said. “We go into the side effects, the costs and the risks. We want to be real and honest with people and give them everything they need to know if they're considering this treatment.”

Connecting everyday people to top doctors in the country and in their communities is appealing to brands looking to advertise on the platform, said Alperin, adding that SurvivorNet has “fundamentally reinvented” cancer resources for people, who might have turned to lesser vetted platforms like Wikipedia.

SurvivorNet plans to further expand its programming, and recently launched Close the Gap, a collaboration with NYU Langone Health's Perlmutter Cancer Center to bring awareness and close the racial gap in cancer prevention, care and survival rates.

“We set out to help people make better decisions and feel less alone,” Alperin said. “We're part of the woodwork now.”

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