Why data is essential to cancer research

Blog posted February 2024

Understanding and analysing patient data isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of cancer research, but it’s actually really important to the work we do.

Every time we see a patient, we have a chance to get real-time information about them and their cancer. We see over 60,000 people every year at The Christie, so imagine how powerful harnessing that data could be, both in terms of day-to-day care for patients, but also in terms of posing questions that could lead to further research and innovation.

That’s where our Clinical Outcomes and Data Unit (CODU) comes in. Our vision is to improve the outcomes of our patients through a data-enhanced comprehensive cancer centre where real-world data drives improvement in cancer care. It is therefore key for us to enable and support ‘data-enhanced clinicians’ across the Trust and develop partnerships with other organisations across the UK and beyond. The more data we have, the better the chances to drive improvements and outcomes for our patients.

Based in the new Paterson Building, we’re a team with a diverse set of skills, including clinicians, data analysts, data scientists, information governance experts, and clinical audit and research teams. But we all have one aim of harnessing our patients’ clinical data to improve the way we do things at The Christie. That data is sensitive, and we have an obligation not just to use it to the benefit of our patients, but also to ensure it is protected and used appropriately.  

A couple of examples that bring what we do to life include the study of rare tumours and work around solving health inequalities. By pooling data on those patients and analysing it, we can learn things that you might not in a traditional clinical trial.

An area that’s particularly interesting to me is senior adult oncology and making sure that we are providing the best care for older people with complex needs and frailty. These patients aren’t normally included in clinical trials, so real-world data in this space is a great opportunity to get insights into their clinical outcomes and how to best provide individualised care.

Moving into the Paterson marks the launch of this new CODU unit and is the first time that we’ve brought all the experts in this field together in one place, so it’s an exciting time. If you want to innovate, you have to link up different teams with different ways of thinking. Having this space with so many brilliant people is just fantastic and is going to make a real difference to what we can achieve.

Last updated: February 2024