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Genomics England deploys enterprise imaging system for cancer research


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Genomics England has completed the installation of an enterprise imaging system to support a pioneering initiative for cancer research.

The programme is linking whole genome sequencing, pathology and radiology data, in what has been described as the world’s largest multimodal cancer research platform. It was first announced in 2022 as a means to support new discoveries and should help a range of researchers and scientists develop a better understanding of cancer.

It is hoped that this will lead to new treatments as well as supporting the development of cancer targeting AI.    

Genomics England has now deployed technology from medical imaging technology provider Sectra to incorporate NHS imaging data, whilst the Image Exchange Portal, a system used nationally in the NHS, will also allow it to transport images from participating trusts.

This will mean diagnostic imaging data captured in the NHS, including radiology images such as x-rays, CT and MRI scans, and digital pathology images generated by NHS laboratories, can be linked with whole genome sequencing data from Genomics England.

Pathology and radiology

To begin with 30 NHS trusts in England are providing data on solid tumours. This includes approximately 250,000 pathology images and 200,000 radiology scans from 16,000 participants.

Once the radiology and pathology data in the system is matched with the genomics data, multi-modal data will be used by researchers to investigate and identify markers for cancer diagnostics and treatments.

Sectra said information will be kept highly secure with patient identifiable data removed for researchers outside of Genomics England, who will only have access to an ID number, the age of the participant and the name of the NHS site at which data was captured. 

Pushing boundaries

Dr Prabhu Arumugam, director of clinical data and imaging, and Caldicott Guardian for Genomics England, said: “This programme will push the boundaries of cancer research and how we work. It has the potential to transform clinical trials, change who can do research and development, and lead to the creation of new targeted treatments for cancer patients. The potential is vast.

“We will be able to understand mutations and when things go wrong in DNA, and importantly, whether that transpires into what clinicians see in medical imaging. We can also expose data in new ways to AI. All of that can help to facilitate new drug discoveries, and better inform which patients might benefit from particular treatments.”

Referring to the Sectra system, he added: "The imaging system is already a very recognisable interface in NHS clinical settings, but we are using it in new ways. It will help us to harness imaging that we can then match to our genomic data, whilst de-identifying data to ensure confidentiality.

“The resulting multi-modal dataset will enable important research, break down traditional barriers, and support a safe and secure but accessible cloud based research environment, that means many more people than bioinformaticians can harness genomic, pathology and radiology data.”

The new research platform is being deployed in Genomics England’s cloud environment.

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