New drive to use existing NHS data to improve cancer outcomes in Scotland

Three projects win Cancer Innovation Challenge funding to demonstrate feasibility of tools to improve diagnosis, treatment and overall cancer care

Three projects have secured funding from the Cancer Innovation Challenge to demonstrate the potential impact of technology on improving the diagnosis, treatment and overall care of cancer patients.

The selection criteria spanned clinical, technological, academic and business considerations, crucially with improving patient outcomes at the core

The three groups have won up to £35,000 each to demonstrate how insights gained from existing NHS Scotland data can be used to improve cancer patient care and outcomes across Scotland.

After three months of further development, two will be selected to continue to the next stage, which will see them receive further funding of up to £125,000 to develop prototypes over a six-month period.

The projects all seek to deliver at least one of the following objectives:

  • Enable analysis of unstructured data (eg clinical notes, medical imaging)
  • Enable data-driven clinical decisions
  • Enable data-driven service improvement in the NHS
  • Enable data-driven recruitment for clinical trials
  • Enable the adoption of precision medical approaches

The three successful projects are:

Canon Medical Research Europe (Edinburgh): The team is working with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on a project aimed at building a robust assessment tool for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM), an asbestos-related cancer with particularly-high incidence in Scotland.

The lack of such a tool to date has limited the ability to evaluate new therapies for this cancer.

This funding will allow these companies to take the next step towards developing new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of blood, kidney and tissue cancers, using advances in machine learning and automation to deliver better outcomes for patients

Canon seeks to address this using machine learning to automate RECIST scoring, the widely-used scoring system for assessing response to cancer treatment from CT scan information for mesothelioma.

Jayex Technology (London): Jayex is working with NHS Lothian on a proof of concept focusing on haematology cancers as there is a shortfall of this data in the National Registry.

They will seek to standardise and migrate existing data collected by clinicians over 30-plus years from legacy systems, to a new, cutting-edge platform mapped to a global data standard.

Advanced analytics tools will enable meaningful data discovery to support clinical decision-making.

The platform will also enable adoption of precision medicine approaches it allows future mapping of genomics and analysis of unstructured data.

Sharpe Analytics (Edinburgh) This will harness the power of machine learning to generate tools for the prediction of outcomes for Scottish cancer patients.

It will begin with prognosis modelling for patients with renal cell carcinoma using routinely-collected data recorded in repositories such as the Scottish Cancer Registry.

This will set the foundation for further work to increase the accuracy of its models by incorporating additional variables, such as genetic markers influencing the likelihood of tumour development. It is also working with NHS Lothian on the project.

Dr Hilary Dobson OBE is deputy director of the Innovative Healthcare Delivery Programme (IHDP) and clinical lead on the Cancer Innovation Challenge funding call. She said: “The response to this funding call was very strong.

The £1m Cancer Innovation Challenge Fund plays a key role in supporting entrepreneurship and new approaches in this crucial area of medicine

“The selection criteria spanned clinical, technological, academic and business considerations, crucially with improving patient outcomes at the core.

“The three successful projects demonstrated really-strong possibilities for revolutionising cancer care in this country.

“We are excited to see how each of them develops during this stage of the process.”

The Cancer Innovation Challenge aims to inspire novel data and tech innovations to help Scotland become a world leader in cancer care.

It is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and delivered by three Scottish innovation centres – led by The Data Lab and supported by the Digital Health and Care Institute (DHI) and Stratified Medicine Scotland (SMS).

Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “We are committed to developing Scotland as a centre for innovation, life sciences and world-class clinical research.

“The £1m Cancer Innovation Challenge Fund plays a key role in supporting entrepreneurship and new approaches in this crucial area of medicine.

“This funding will allow these companies to take the next step towards developing new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of blood, kidney and tissue cancers, using advances in machine learning and automation to deliver better outcomes for patients.”

And Stuart Fancey, director of research and innovation at the Scottish Funding Council, added: “The Cancer Innovation Challenge is driving collaboration and helping Scotland to become a world-leading carer for people with cancer.

“The quality of the proposals and their potential to drive positive improvements is good news for the future care of cancer patients throughout Scotland.”

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