Data scientists urged to take up cancer innovation challenge

Gillian Docherty, Dr Catherine Calderwood and challenge project manager Steph Wright.

A call for innovative data science solutions to improve cancer care in Scotland launches today. The Cancer Innovation Challenge aims to inspire novel data and tech proposals to help Scotland become a world leading health system for people with cancer. The pioneering initiative is being launched by Dr Catherine Calderwood, the Scottish Government’s chief medical officer, on the last day of DataFest17, which has attracted international experts to celebrate data innovation and showcase Scotland’s world class data science capabilities.

A patient’s cancer journey leaves a data trail from diagnosis to treatment to recovery. The Cancer Innovation Challenge invites data scientists, technicians and clinicians to develop leading-edge solutions that will allow the NHS in Scotland to use this data to refine diagnosis, select treatments and improve the experience for patients. This could be by generating unique analytical insights into care resourcing or useful ways of visualising large amounts of data on treatment plans or prescriptions. Or it could be about enabling patients to record experiences of their cancer journey and integrate the resulting data into NHS systems to improve patient care. The challenge will work with health care professionals to create a safe, secure and anonymous environment, which will protect patient confidentially, for data linkage and analysis.

The Cancer Innovation Challenge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and is being 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). “If used in the right way, data can be a vital tool in our efforts to improve services, treatments and outcomes for people with cancer,” said Calderwood. “This Cancer Challenge is about finding innovative ways of using the data that exists, while continuing to guarantee patient confidentiality. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this challenge, and the benefits it will bring to cancer patients and their families.”

Gillian Docherty, chief executive of The Data Lab, added: “There have been phenomenal advances in cancer care in Scotland over the last decade, and while we understand the outcomes of patient care, time and funding constraints sometimes limit our ability to analyse how cancer services could be improved. The data industry will contribute £20bn to Scotland’s economy by 2020 and data has the power to help better provide better cancer services. Scotland provides a unique test bed to explore how healthcare data might be used to help make better treatment decisions and better target resources. This funding will drive collaboration across Health Boards, industry, academia, patients, practitioners and cancer charities, enhancing Scotland’s ongoing commitment to improving care for cancer patients”

John Kemp, interim chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “A challenge to improve the prevention of cancer and care of people with cancer is good news for patients and for Scotland. Combining the different areas of expertise in the three innovation centres and the NHS will help Scotland become a world leading carer for people with cancer.”