A new screening test, funded by NIHR Oxford BRC, is being hailed the most efficient way to indicate risk of colorectal cancer.
First stage UK research, published today, shows that an advanced computer algorithm technology can successfully indicate levels of risk by analysing previous blood test results in patients’ existing medical records.
The paper, ‘Evaluation of a prediction model for colorectal cancer: retrospective analysis of 2.5 million patient records’, is published today in the journal Cancer Medicine.
Advances in algorithm technology – a mathematical analysis of data – have led to the ability to search ultra-rapidly through existing NHS records to determine whether a patient is at risk of colorectal cancer.
This has the potential to save lives through early detection as well as reducing the need for unnecessary costly and invasive tests.
The algorithm, established in Tel Aviv and shown to work on the Israeli population, has now been trialled in the very different UK population.
This radically different approach has been tested over the past two years by Oxford University and funded by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.
The results indicate that this new medical development could complement the current NHS bowel cancer screening programme and make risk assessment in primary care more accurate.
Professor Julietta Patnick was the Director of NHS Cancer Screening when the project was initiated in the UK and secured NIHR funding to investigate this new computer algorithm programme – the first trial of its kind outside of Israel.
Unveiling results from the trial, Professor Patnick, now a Visiting Professor at Oxford University, is highly encouraged by the outcomes. She says: “The beauty of this algorithm is that it is a system which can be applied to GP surgery data, running quickly and efficiently to give a more accurate level of risk. It works by analysing demographic information and results from blood tests and blood test markers in a patient’s medical record.”
Dr Matthew Hallsworth from the NIHR said: “Having set up the NHS Cancer Screening programme, Professor Patnick was ideally placed to test whether this novel approach to bowel cancer screening, which had shown positive results in Israel, could be applied to the UK population.
“With research funding from the NIHR, Professor Patnick has been able to demonstrate that by using this data analysis technique on test results that are already in a patient’s medical record, there is a real opportunity to improve our ability to assess the risk of colorectal cancer. This has the potential not only to improve patient outcomes but also to save money for the NHS.”
The Director of Screening at Public Health England, Dr Anne Mackie, said “The UK National Screening Committee welcomes this new research and will carefully look at its possible benefits alongside our current activities to improve bowel cancer screening.”
Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “This promising study is further evidence that using data to aid research can save lives. The benefits of using data are clear – more advanced and effective treatments and diagnoses for NHS patients both now and in the future.
“That’s why this Government is putting record amounts of funding into medical research, including £1 billion through the National Institute for Health Research last year alone.”
The research would not have come about if not for a partnership sparked by the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI), part of England’s National Institute for Health Research. On a British Embassy trip to Tel Aviv four years ago, NOCRI met a small IT company, Medial Research, pioneers in the field of algorithmic analysis of medical data. It had developed the computer algorithm which successfully predicts high, medium or low risk of developing colorectal cancer.
On their return to the UK, Mark Samuels, then Chief Executive of NOCRI, discussed this concept with Professor Patnick. NOCRI introduced her to Medial Research who agreed to share the computer algorithm for free, to be tested in the UK.