The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Leeds doctors and researchers £4.5m boost to improve cancer care

12 September 2019

Doctors and researchers in Yorkshire are collaborating on a new £4.5m national data hub that aims to transform how cancer data from across the UK can be used to improve patient care.

Professor Geoff Hall from Leeds Cancer Centre and the University of Leeds is the clinical lead and deputy director of the project.

The new collaboration has today been awarded £4.5 million to deliver DATA-CAN, the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer.

The project will work closely with patients to bring their clinical data together and use this data to help develop improved cancer treatments, give patients faster access to clinical trials, and understand how we can improve NHS cancer services.

The Independent Cancer Taskforce recommended in 2015 that using de-identified cancer data more effectively could potentially contribute to saving the lives of 30,000 cancer patients a year.

One in two people will get cancer during their lifetime. Every year, almost 400,000 new cases are diagnosed in the UK, and cancer costs the NHS £7 billion annually.

Professor Hall, said: “This project will help empower the NHS to use data and analytics to optimise care for patients, while supporting universities and companies who work with us to discover and develop new treatments.

“A key focus of the hub will be to support the development and delivery of clinical trials and to identify which trials are suitable for individual patients. By doing so we will ensure patients have access to new, potentially life-saving treatments.”

The hub will be supported by patients, charities, clinicians, academic and industry-based researchers and innovators, and will involve cancer centres across the UK.

DATA-CAN is being funded by Health Data Research UK, the national institute for health data science, which is also funding six other health data hubs. The hubs are part of a four-year £37 million investment from the Government Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), led by UK Research and Innovation, to create a UK-wide capability for the safe and responsible use of health-related data on a large scale. The national hub has been founded by researchers in London, Belfast and Leeds.

Researchers in Leeds are leading the way in involving patients and the public in the design and running of the project from the outset. This will ensure that patients have a decisive say in how their de-identified health data is used for research.

Natalie Pearce, aged 47, is a primary school teacher from Leeds and a survivor of ovarian cancer. She said: “I was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer at the relatively young age of 40. It was a huge shock, to say the least, as I was healthy in all other respects.

“My doctor suggested I take part in a clinical trial, meaning some of the chemotherapy was given directly into my abdomen. I have no idea if that’s why the cancer hasn’t returned and I’m still clear of it, but I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to take part in that trial. That’s one of the reasons I think this data hub will be invaluable, to look at those small groups of people who’ve taken part in clinical trials and to try and understand why some patient’s cancer didn’t return.

“The answer in the long term is to compare and gather a great number of patients so you have a much bigger pool of data to be accessed by a wider range of researchers.

“If there’s anything about my cancer data that could help someone else I would want to share it. Everyone’s data will be anonymised, so I don’t think anybody should hesitate because it can only help the future, and help us have a future without cancer.”

Collaborators from Yorkshire and Humber include the University of Leeds, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, University of Sheffield, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Sheffield Children’s Hospitals and the Yorkshire and Humber Local Health Care Record.

Working across all four nations of the United Kingdom, DATA-CAN is a unique partnership of NHS organisations, patients, charities, academia and industry working together to improve cancer care by harnessing anonymous clinical and genomics data to provide cancer patients with an earlier diagnosis, faster access to clinical trials, and access to innovative new personalised medicines.