News, NHS trust

Leeds Teaching Hospitals agrees cancer data partnership

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has partnered with Flatiron Health UK to utilise cancer data for research and to explore the possibilities in developing and improving cancer care.

The project sets an ambition to improve the quality of cancer data, and to translate cancer patient records at Leeds into ‘high-quality data’. The trust added that “typically, data that can be used in research only comes from clinical trials” and said it has led to “gaps in our knowledge about how cancer and the treatments we currently use affects real people and their lives”.

As part of the programme Flatiron Health UK will bring together clinicians, epidemiologists, software engineers and data scientists to turn unorganised cancer information, such as clinical letters and reports, into anonymised information that can be used by researchers.

Patients will be able to opt-out from the use of their data, with existing opt-outs recorded through the NHS national data opt-out respected. The trust that added for patients who do not opt-out, Flatiron Health UK will turn the cancer patient information into “curated, research-ready anonymised datasets that can be used by the NHS and researchers, in academia and industry, to accelerate cancer research and improve care”.

On the secure data environment, the trust noted that the data cannot be reidentified, and strict controls are in place on who can access the data and what they can do with it.

Once the curated dataset has been formed, it will be returned to the trust where its uses could help in “predicting which type of cancer patient is most at risk of symptoms worsening, treatment side effects or relapse to help inform patient care,” the trust added.

In the US, the company has demonstrated its approach has led to men with breast cancer being able to access life-extending drugs that were previously unavailable and bowel cancer patients being reduced unnecessary extra doses of chemotherapy.

Commenting on the project, Prof Geoff Hall, Cancer Medicine & Digital Health at the University of Leeds and a consultant medical oncologist at LTHT, said: “We believe that better access to high quality research data has the potential to change the future of cancer treatment. The more we understand about cancer, the better equipped we are to provide treatment and care.

“Working with Flatiron Health UK could bring significant benefits for current and future patients. Flatiron Health UK’s experience in working with data in this way will enable us to gain a better understanding of cancer and use this to improve treatment and care for patients. We are excited to take the next step in this partnership, which we have been developing for more than two years alongside patients, charities and stakeholders.”