NHS Cancer Alliance Implements Inspirata AI to Improve Clinical Trial Access for South West Patients


Cancer informatics and digital pathology provider Inspirata and the Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire Cancer Alliance (SWAG) announced a new partnership designed to accelerate the process by which patients with cancer in the region are identified and matched with relevant clinical trials. The partnership involves an initial implementation of Inspirata’s Trial Navigator™ software at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), as the first step of a multi-site roll-out of the clinical trial matching solution for the benefit of patients across the geography. This initiative is part of the alliance’s long-standing aim of improving clinical trial access.

“We are excited to partner with Inspirata in implementing Trial Navigator,” said Dr Helen Winter, Clinical Director of SWAG Cancer Alliance. “We hope that this solution will afford both clinicians and patients in the region a greater choice of potential treatment options. Similarly, expedite the fulfilment of existing, and the hosting of new clinical trials as we look to recover services affected by the pandemic.”

Trial Navigator draws on oncology-specific natural language processing (NLP) AI to eliminate common bottlenecks within the trial matching workflow by working with the Trust’s existing information governance processes to search the individual medical reports, notes and referral letters of patients with cancer, abstracting key information about their disease and automatically cross-referencing attributes identified against study eligibility criteria held within clinical trial databases. The software then immediately surfaces studies most likely to represent a patient-fit for clinical evaluation.

“Clinical trials are an integral part of the optimal management of cancer patients but having a complete and up-to-date picture of the ever-changing trial landscape can be time-consuming,” said Dr Axel Walther, Clinical Trials Unit Lead at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre, UHBW. “Working with Inspirata to automate this aspect of the oncology workflow means our clinical teams can spend more time with patients evaluating potential trial options to best suit them. More patients will be able to take part in trials relevant to their cancer, increasing treatment options and driving innovation.”

It is also hoped that the introduction of Trial Navigator will help to assist in recruiting a wider demographic of patients to take part in cancer research, as a recent audit has shown that some cohorts of patients are less likely to participate in clinical trials than others. It is anticipated that this software will bring opportunities forward and medical teams will be able to offer these to patients more readily.

“Recent evidence points to a myriad of factors contributing to the under-representation of different groups in cancer studies. This can include pressures on healthcare professionals’ workload, time constraints and lack of trial information,” further explained Helen Winter. “The implementation of Trial Navigator is designed to help our care teams extend access to cancer research to everyone within our community wishing to take advantage.”

Automation of clinical trial matching will also assist the SWAG Cancer Alliance in working towards NHS England’s defined aims for the building-back of cancer services following Covid-19.

“NHS England detailed the tackling of inequalities and utilising innovations in practice as key strategic points of its Cancer Service Recovery Plan ,” said Dr Adam Dangoor, Chief Clinical Information Officer at UHBW. “In engaging Inspirata we are addressing a long-standing aim of our Cancer Alliance of ensuring more patients are put forward for trial. In addition, making our pathways more efficient and automatic so we can provide the most effective care for our patients.”

Oenone Duroe, General Manager Inspirata Europe, said: “Inspirata is thrilled to have been afforded the opportunity to work with the SWAG Cancer Alliance and is excited to help the region cement its reputation for innovation and clinical trial excellence.”

Inspirata’s engagement with the SWAG Cancer Alliance follows an equivalent collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s Health Partners Experimental Cancer Medical Centre and Cancer Research UK around automated patient matching with early-phase clinical trials.