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Genomics England has deployed an enterprise imaging system from supplier Sectra to link radiology and pathology images with whole genome sequencing data.
The implementation of the system is part of Genomic England’s cancer data programme, aiming to link whole genome sequencing, pathology and radiology data.
The hope is that researchers and developers from different backgrounds can harness the joined-up data in new ways to improve and create targeted cancer treatments.
The Sectra system allows Genomics England to integrate imaging data from the NHS, including X-rays, CT and MRI scans, and digital pathology images, which can then be linked with whole genome sequencing data.
Prabhu Arumugam, director of clinical data and imaging and Caldicott guardian for Genomics England, said the programme is pushing the boundaries of cancer research.
“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,” he said.
“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 artificial intelligence (AI). All of that can help to facilitate new drug discoveries and better inform which patients might benefit from particular treatments.”
Read more about genome sequencing and the NHS:
- The 2021-22 implementation plan for government’s 10-year Genome UK strategy includes improving diversity of genomics data, rolling out whole genome sequencing to rare diseases patients, and delivering a proof of concept for a next-generation approach to cancer treatment.
- Consortium of universities and other institutions has harnessed datasets, analytics and cloud computing to sequence Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in a blisteringly short time.
- More than 600,000 positive Covid-19 tests have been genomically sequenced by the government to identify genes that make people more susceptible to severe symptoms, and to monitor different variants of the virus.
Arumugam added that the new system will help “harness imaging”, while at the same time 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,” he said.
Currently, 30 NHS trusts in England are providing data on solid tumours, amounting to around 250,000 pathology images and 200,000 radiology scans. The scans, once combined with the genomics data, can then be used by researchers to identify markers for cancer diagnostics and treatments.
Researchers outside of Genomics England will only have access to a Genomics England ID number, the age of the participant and the name of the NHS trust where the data was captured, removing all identifiable data.
The research platform from Sectra is deployed in Genomics England’s cloud environment.
Genomics England was set up by the Department of Health and Social Care as a standalone entity to oversee the 100,000 Genomes Project, which was announced by then health secretary Jeremy Hunt in July 2013.
In 2015, it began recruiting patients for the programme, with the aim of completing the project by the end of 2017. In March 2018, the government reached the halfway mark, having sequenced 50,000 genomes, and in December 2018, the project reached its goal of sequencing 100,000 genomes from NHS patients suffering with rare diseases and cancer.
In September 2020, the government launched a 10-year Genome UK strategy, aiming to create the world’s most advanced genomic healthcare system in the UK through improving diversity of genomics data, rolling out whole genome sequencing to rare disease patients and delivering a proof of concept for a next-generation approach to cancer treatment.