The NHS Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucester (SWAG) Cancer Alliance has partnered up with Inspirata for a project which will see artificial intelligence (AI) being used to help match patients with relevant clinical trials. 

Inspirata’s Trial Navigator uses AI technology to speed up the process of identifying patients with relevant clinical trials and research studies with the aim of helping to improve patient outcomes and breakthroughs in cancer research.

The software uses oncology-specific natural language processing AI to eliminate common bottlenecks within the trial. It matches workflow by working with the trust’s existing information governance processes to search individual medical reports, notes and referral letters, drawing key information about their disease and automatically cross-referencing attributes identified against study eligibility criteria.

Dr Helen Winter, clinical director of SWAG Cancer Alliance, said: “We hope that this solution will afford both clinicians and patients in the region a greater choice of potential treatment options. Similarly, expediting the fulfilment of existing, and the hosting of new clinical trials as we look to recover services affected by the pandemic.”

It is also hoped Trial Navigator will help to recruit a wider demographic of patients to participate in cancer research, by highlighting opportunities so medical teams can offer them more easily to patients less likely to participate.

Winter added: “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.

The initial implementation of Trial Navigator will happen at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW).

Dr Axel Walther, clinical trials unit lead at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre, said: “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.

“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.”

“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.”

Inspirata has previously ran a similar collaboration with King’s Health Partners Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, where Trial Navigator software was trialled as part of a pilot to evaluate AI-based automation and its ability to improve the process of matching cancer patients with early phase clinical trials.