Three pioneering organisations have strengthened Scotland’s position as a world leading carer for people with cancer, following the completion of the Cancer Innovation Challenge, a £1m project funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Launched in 2017, the Cancer Innovation Challenge brought together three Innovation Centres, led by The Data Lab in collaboration with the Digital Health and Care Institute (now Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre) and Stratified Medicine Scotland (now Precision Medicine Scotland). The challenge was created to encourage collaboration between innovation centres, medical professionals and cutting-edge healthcare businesses.
As part of the Cancer Innovation Challenge, three organisations were funded to develop and evaluate their solutions to help the NHS in Scotland use data to improve a patient’s cancer journey. This included London-based businesses, Px HealthCare (Px) and My Clinical Outcomes (MCO) and Edinburgh-headquartered Canon Medical Research Europe. Px further developed its OWise app for breast cancer patients to record their treatment symptoms and side effects, with data delivered to clinicians in real time, directly within the Electronic Health Record system. This allows clinicians to easily track an individual’s progress and recommend adjustments to treatment plans, based on real time data reported by patients. The app was trialled by NHS Lothian and Px has gone on to work with Prostate Scotland, Maggie’s Centres and clinicians of the West of Scotland Cancer Network to develop the OWise platform for prostate cancer patients and their clinicians.
Dr Anne Bruinvels, Founder and CEO of Px said: “The OWise app gives patients increased control over their treatment, allowing them to communicate with their clinicians continually and in a meaningful way. Similarly, the app provides professionals with a detailed and current picture of how their patients are coping at any given time; this ongoing record of their experience allows clinicians to consider and tailor treatments in a timely and effective way.
“The Cancer Innovation Challenge opened up further opportunities for us to trial and refine our technology, working with new services to demonstrate how we can improve patient experience while making an immediate impact on improving cancer outcomes.”
MCO is an online platform which harnesses patient reported data to improve the quality of life of cancer patients through the analysis of side effects and symptoms. Used throughout the diagnosis, treatment and long-term care phases, it provides clinicians with a fuller understanding of their patients’ conditions and how they are responding to treatment. The platform was initially deployed for use by patients with haematological cancer at NHS Ayrshire and Arran and MCO also worked on further Cancer Innovation Challenge projects with Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the South and East Scotland Cancer Network.
Tim Williams, Founder of My Clinical Outcomes, said: “We know from clinical trials that using real-time patient reported outcome data can help improve and prolong patients’ lives. This was never more apparent or important than during the height of the pandemic where we scaled the use of the platform to support virtual care pathways across NHS Scotland.
“The Cancer Innovation Challenge gave us the chance to deliver our solution for the first time in routine cancer care and we are pleased to have gone on to scale the approach to Health Boards such as Cardiff and Vale in NHS Wales and with Integrated Care Systems such as Sussex ICS. We are currently focused on scaling the proven clinical, quality of life and cost benefits to other health boards and cancer centres to show how we can remotely monitor patients and help transform the efficiency and effectiveness of managing pathways.”
The third project was led by Canon Medical Research Europe, an Edinburgh based company specialising in next generation medical imaging software, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the University of Glasgow. The project resulted in the development of a new, world-leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven cancer assessment tool using deep learning. The team created a prototype AI system able to automatically find and measure the rare cancer, Mesothelioma, on CT scans and to assess patients’ responses to treatments. Scotland currently has the highest incidence of Mesothelioma in the world, a reflection of the historical use of asbestos in UK industries, such as shipbuilding and construction. The project’s clinical findings have been published and presented around the world. The team have now progressed into the next optimisation phase of its work as part of the international PREDICT-Meso Accelerator project, led by the University of Glasgow, and are currently collecting 2,000 CT scans which will allow it to further develop the AI.
Ken Sutherland, President of Canon Medical Research Europe: “The Cancer Innovation Challenge provided us with a platform to showcase how we can use artificial intelligence to deliver an enhanced picture of how cancers present and the impact on patients.
“Mesothelioma is a particularly difficult cancer to work with and, given its prevalence in Scotland, we were pleased to have the opportunity to work with clinicians and patients in Glasgow. The delivery of such world leading, and impactful results represents an astounding success for us all. However much more than that, it provides us with a glimpse of what is possible with the use of technology and data. We are now developing our project further and look forward to sharing more updates when we can.”
Steph Wright, from The Data Lab who led on the project, commented: “Outcomes for cancer patients in Scotland fall behind those of our Northern European counterparts, however Scotland has some of the best health service data in the world. This is a clear area for innovation, research and development and we are delighted that, through this project, organisations came together and rose to the challenge.
“It has been a pleasure to be the lead Innovation Centre for this fantastic project, working with organisations with the skills and knowledge to create truly transformational technologies. By driving collaboration to help deliver tangible outcomes, the Cancer Innovation Challenge has provided an insight into how ground-breaking research and innovation with data can improve the experience of cancer patients.”
Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “We can do amazing things to tackle the biggest and most difficult challenges we face as a society when we bring together the right people and the right resources to move things forward.
“The Cancer Innovation Challenge provides a model for how this can be done. For the Innovation Centres and their partners, it created the stimulus and supplied the framework for a raft of data science innovations. It’s fascinating and also heartening to see in this report how these are now transforming the lives of cancer patients. I am proud we were able to play a part in this pioneering initiative.”