Centre for Oncology Informatics

KNOWLEDGE CAN CURE CANCER

A bold statement indeed!

The 20th century was the century of cancer treatment. In 1900, the only cancer modality widely available was surgery, X radiation had only just been discovered and was not widely available. Morphine was available but not widely used for pain because of its association with addition and depravity.

By the end of the 20th century, we still have surgeons, although admittedly they are now much less invasive and cosmetically disfiguring; we have brachytherapy and IMRT from the radiation oncologist; we have chemotherapy of many forms and combinations as well as 'small molecule' therapy from the medical oncologist; and we have hormone therapy administered by any of the oncologists.

But the end of the 20th century is also the end of the therapy driven improvements in cancer care. There are already estimates that cancer cure rates will jump substantially if we just apply what we know already. Of course what we know already has come at enormous costs - and they are unsustainable. Every patient on a chemotherapy trial is estimated to cost around $100,000, and it really doesn't matter which variety of the dollar you choose, that's a lot of money! Some current breast trials are attempting to accrue more than 5,000 patients.

And the pity of it is that the data used for clinical trials is IDENTICAL to the data in each and every clinic. What is recorded in the clinical notes is obviously different, as one is free text and the other is structured and standardized data. But answer this, WHAT STOPS THE CLINICAL NOTES DATA FROM BEING THE SAME?

The answer is - lack of appropriate information systems that are "fit for use"!

We are interested in improving Oncology outcomes by applying formal Informatics concepts to drive research to produce systems that are fit for use. We really don't care if this is achieved in the commercial, in the FOSS setting or both, we are just interested in getting the functionality available.

Our paradigm for this is the research partnership of oncologist and informatician in an academic setting, dove-tailed with software production, so that software useful for research is delivered to the oncology community.

This desire to have academic pairings should NOT be taken to mean that we exclude individuals or non-academics, we invite everyone able and willing to participate, and we generally encourage the building of results into software available for oncologists and oncology departments.