Supporting Local and International Oesophageal Cancer Research Efforts with Clinical Data Infrastructure

Stephen Ash is a Data Manager and clinical statistician at the Ludwig Cancer Centre (Oxford Branch – part of the Nuffield Department of Medicine), and the Churchill Hospital (Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – OUHFT).

Steve acts as a link between data collection within the NHS and data usage for research within the University. He is collecting and storing clinical data from patients with oesophageal or gastric cancer. Together with the team’s Data Assistant Paola Medina Cruz, Steve ensures that researchers working with the dataset are provided with sufficient information about the patient’s cancer and their care, to be able to understand and interpret the analyses which will be carried out on donated blood and tumour samples, whilst maintaining patient confidentiality.

When a patient undergoes investigations for cancer in the NHS, a vast amount of information is generated. These data are collated in a form that can be integrated in the daily administrative work within the NHS, but not necessarily in a format that is suitable for usage within a research environment, especially Oxford’s Cancer Big Data community. Steve develops databases which support a wide range of research in this field, and trains medical staff in how to use them ensuring accuracy and completeness. Steve’s efforts are crucial in informing a portfolio of ongoing research projects studying patient samples that are collected from these same patients. One example is Barbara Braden’s and Adam Bailey’s research on using AI to detect Oesophageal Cancer earlier.

In addition to researchers, the OUHFT surgical team also benefit from the high-quality and comprehensive dataset, using it to analyse their own performance, monitor the occurrence of surgical complications, and look for ways to improve the care they provide to patients.

Steve is also responsible for overseeing Oxford’s contribution to the Esodata project, run by Dr Don Low and the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus (ISDE), an international collaboration between 30 health institutions around the world. The aim of this project is to be able to better predict post-surgery complications associated with oesophagectomies so that patients at highest risk can be more closely monitored.

Within Oxford, Steve collaborates with (amongst others) the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (including surgeon and OUHFT Cancer Lead, Mr Nick Maynard), the Ludwig Cancer Centre (Oxford Branch) (including Prof Xin Lu), the Department of Oncology (including Prof Mark Middleton), the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (part of the Nuffield Department of Medicine) (including Prof Simon Leedham), the MRC Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine (including Simona Fourie), and the Translational Gastroenterology Unit (within the Nuffield Department of Medicine – including Prof Barbara Braden).