Cancer is a killer. This isn’t a fact that will surprise many people. What is surprising is that after decades of research and billions of euros spent, it’s still the leading cause of death in many countries around the world. The reason why we’re no closer to understanding cancer is as complex as the disease itself.
On a research level, it in part comes down to the fact that the data sources involved are diverse, fragmented, and often incompatible. Electronic medical record (EMR) systems include only a portion of the data that needs to be analyzed to get a complete picture of just one patient. Text-based case notes and scanned documents are widely used in healthcare, and getting these and other unstructured sources into a format that enables analysis is a challenge.
ConSoRe: Creating structure from data chaos
One of the largest cancer research organizations in Europe, UNICANCER is trying to knock cancer off its number-one killer spot with help from its next-generation data analytics solution called Continuum Soins Recherche (ConSoRe) or Continuum of Care Research. Developed in collaboration with IT consulting firm Sword Group and using Intel technologies, ConSoRe will give cancer researchers a powerful way to analyze diverse data sources.
Cohorts assembled in a matter of hours rather than months
In its current pilot phase, ConSoRe is being piloted at four of UNICANCER’s 20 centers across France. Using natural language programming (NLP) and combining diverse data from 24 million documents related to 1.25 million patients, it is considerably speeding up analysis compared to manual processing. A key part of cancer research—and the part that’s particularly time-consuming—is compiling a cohort of patients with the precise combination of factors for a specific trial. Pierre Heudel, Oncologist at UNICANCER’s center in Lyon, says, “We recently had a metastatic breast cancer research project where it took 30 people reviewing patient records for six months to assemble a cohort of patients. We believe ConSoRe will help us to do that within a matter of hours or days.”
Such an optimistic projection like this from a healthcare specialist is encouraging—indeed, big data analytics may well deliver the next big breakthrough in cancer treatment. In this quest, UNICANCER’s ConSoRe is certainly showing great promise. The potential for it to be applied across the organization’s 20 centers—and eventually well beyond—is an exciting prospect for cancer research.
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