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Reflections on the launch of the Cancer Data Phase 1 Projects

Dr Hilary Dobson OBE

25th April 2018

Thoughts from Dr Hilary Dobson OBE, Deputy Director of the Innovative Healthcare Delivery Programme (IHDP) and the clinical lead for the Cancer Innovation Challenge's funding competition to find Innovative data science solutions to improve cancer care and outcomes in Scotland after the project launch and stakeholder engagement event on 6 March 2018. 

A video recording of the event can be viewed here

Information about the three Phase 1 projects can be found here.


Reflecting on the enormous changes to cancer care that I have witnessed during my professional career, as well as recognising the tremendous advances in diagnosis, treatment and outcomes, I am struck by the current complexities and demands that underpin our day to day work. As clinicians, we face significant challenges in all aspects of our clinical practice, starting with how best to organise our daily services (whilst keeping up to date with new techniques) through providing  the most appropriate treatments  based on the best available evidence we can source. As we move towards the provision of a more personalised approach to the management of disease, these challenges will only intensify unless we can harness the power of informatics to unlock the detail held within our clinical systems.

The Phase 1 projects of the Cancer Innovation Challenge's funding competition to find Innovative data science solutions to improve cancer care and outcomes in Scotland launched on 6 March 2018, provided an opportunity to capture expertise from outwith the healthcare sector to explore innovative approaches to this task. I take heart from the quality and range of applicants willing to participate and form new collaborations with their Heath Board partners. The launch event provided a platform for sharing ideas, experiences and context for the three successful Phase 1 project teams right at the outset of the formulation of the feasibility of their technical solutions. The most significant contributions, however, were offered by patients and clinicians ensuring a constant focus on the key aim of this work, namely, to enable the timely and accurate access of clinical data to allow the patients to have the most appropriate treatments planned and delivered and their many  questions answered as comprehensively as possible.

If successful, the three participants in Phase 1 will provide a diverse set of technological tools to enhance utilisation of cancer clinical data including,

  • The use of deep learning to provide an objective analysis of follow up imaging to assess response to treatment (Canon Medical Research Europe Ltd working with NHS Great Glasgow and Clyde).

  • The creation of a Clinical Access Platform able to integrate national data infrastructures as well as legacy databases (Jayex Technology Ltd working with NHS Lothian).

  •  The use of machine learning to generate predictive prognostic tools for cancer patients (Sharpe Analytics Ltd working with NHS Lothian).

The publication of the Digital Heath and Social Care Strategy today looks to this timely contribution of  the Cancer Innovation Challenge.


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