NCIN (National Cancer Intelligence Network) – Cancer Outcomes Conference (Day 1)

Ray Murphy, Chair, National Cancer Partnership Forum, opened the conference and welcomed delegates in attendance.

Ray had a couple of questions that he posed in advance of the conference starting:

“If we are to equal the European rates, we need to save an additional 5,000 lives a year by 2014/2015” – I’ve heard that number before and I can’t help but quiet down the nagging voice in my head that lets me know that the number will be much greater than that – Europe are imrpoving their cancer survivorship numbers too and 5,000 will only equal their numbers today. We need to try much much harder!

“How far are we away from the best cancer (useful data) in the world?”

Chris Carrigan, Head, National Cancer Intelligence Network
The evolution of the Networkpresentation

Jem Rashbass, National Director for Registry Modernisation, National Cancer Intelligence Network
The vision for cancer data in England

Data should allow personalised and stratified medicine. What we’re discovering and confirming is that no one person’s disease is the same as the next. Recently there’s been the discussions about how many types of breast cancer there is, for example. This means the surgery and treatment thereof should be tailored according to the type of breast cancer AND the person diagnosed.

By providing a personalised care plan the patient is further empowered in their own decision making of their own health and life plan.

A great example of a patient portal is the Brain Trust

We should be able to “predict” services availalbe to patients and clinicians based on the statistics and indeed we’re starting to see trends for this purpose emerging.

Dr Mick Peake, Clinical Lead, National Cancer Intelligence Network
Using data to change clinical practicepresentation

Ciaran Devane, Chief Executive Macmillan Cancer Support
Is data really benefiting patients?presentation

Ciaran spoke of data (good data) being critical in commissioning.  Data can identify where all are diagnosed for the purposes of treatment, followup, survivorship and end of life care.

By collecting and managing this data we are able to call upon the commissioning at the right time and in the right location ie local for anyone diagnosed with cancer.

42% of deaths per annum have had a cancer incidence however we have to consider that the numbers of cancer patients WILL go up.  Not because there are more people diagnosed but because people are surviving cancer.  Therefore the need for more survivorship and end of life care is critical.

More is being written about survivorship than mortality however we need to ensure there is a shift in the care for patients (and carers) to be able to manage survivorship.

Breast Cancer Care have been able to utilise data to evidence the need for more resources surrounding secondary breast cancer patients.  Crucial changes to the care for breast cancer patients that comes from data being gathered, analysed and acted upon.  See Breast Cancer Care’s paper ‘Spotlight on secondary breast cancer‘.

Macmillan are trialling a tool which it is proposed will assist people diagnosed with cancer to choose the right treatment and care in a location that near them, or their family.  At the moment the tool is being trialled for colon and rectum cancer in England.


We then headed to parallel sessions chosen by each delegate from the following:

Early diagnosis, screening and prevention
Patient experience and reported outcomes
Cancer Audit

I attended: Patient experience and reported outcomes

The session was introduced by Dr David Cromwell, Senior Lecturer, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Robert Whistance, University of Bristol
Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) of colorectal cancer surgery: a systematic review of outcome measures – presentation

He spoke of the difficulties of patient reported outcomes and data in some areas, particularly with regard to obtaining the information when a patient has left hospital or for the followup appointments or indeed a patient’s perception of pain, for example.

The problems surrounding standardisation of trials, questions and information gathered.  However he was also able to evidence that although the earlier periods of classification and clarification can be trying, the results were critical to getting the care right.

He also pointed us to The Cochrane Collaboration, whose tag line is ”
Working together to provide the best evidence for health care”.  I would urge you to take some time to review the site and content.

Dr Anas El Turabi, Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research
Variations in satisfaction with involvement in decisions about cancer treatment: analysis of the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey 2010

Dr Anas spoke of the research that they had been conducting in to the variation of the patient experience resulting from the 2010 survey.  We know that there are several influences such as socioeconomic, ethnicity, age, sex etc however their task was to evaluate it further with a view to being able to draw out what is actually required to change in each area.

There will always be variables and therefore the task is to allow for the variables but to ensure that issues are not overlooked or perhaps addressed to heavily because of the variables but indeed that these variables are managed.

It was evident, more than any other aspect of the survey, that a “Shared decision is an important aspect of cancer care”.  Certainly I know from my own experience and conversations with others, that being part of a decision about ones own healthcare is empowering and healing.

Natalie Blencowe, University of Bristol
Which outcomes are important to patients and surgeons? Core disclosure prior to oesophageal cancer surgery – presentation

The team chose to look at the oesophageal cancer surgery which has the largest morbidity of all NHS surgeries.

What information and how much is good and right for cancer patients?

First there must be a ‘Core Disclosure Set’ established and added by patient belief, expectation or needs.  This Core Disclosure Set once developed would then be used in surgical consultations prior to oesophagectomy.

The methodology and iterations are best detailed in the presentation prepared by Natalie, however I think it’s very evident that the process is long and drawn out but as it should be in order to gain the best possible questions and answers, to be asked and answered in the best possible language and wording.  Each list of questions in any ‘surveys’ or questionnaires must be tested and revised many times by both the clinicians, patients and lay representatives.  Terminology is new to those entering a procedure but old to those who have practiced it for years!

Natalie also referred to the The COMET (Core Outcome Measures in Effectiveness Trials) Initiative (Web and twitter @COMETinitiative) which aims to set standards and agreed measures for this type of work.  If agreed standards and measures are implemented then the iterations of future work may be reduced.


Dr Mark Davies, Medical Director, NHS Information Centre introduced the first afternoon session

Using clinical information to improve services and outcomes

Professor Julietta Patnick CBE, Director, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes

Information to improve cancer screening services

Julietta’s presentation related to the screening programmes that were underway in the UK.  The importance of these programmes, the cost and the benefits.  She spoke of the difficulties in getting people to take up new programmes, particularly those such as bowel cancer screening… however she was also able to demonstrate that screening programmes do work and do pick up signs of cancer early.  They may ‘stand-alone’ as being an expensive option however evidence indicates that by picking up the early signs of illness, most cases are treatable and therefore more extensive surgery or treatment and long term care avoided.

Julietta also spoke of the ‘celebrity affect’ that sees peaks in screening being undertaken. An obvious one was regarding Jade Goody and the sudden increase in cervical cancer smear tests.  At these times the service is hard to manage due to the numbers of tests being required at short notice however many cases were identified at a time when they would have otherwise potentially have been missed with the patient not attending the regular screening.

We therefore concluded that more emphasis was required to urge people eligible for screening, whether it be cervical, bowel, breast or prostate to attend clinic and keep the appointments made for them.

Di Riley, Associate Director, Clinical Outcomes Programme, National Cancer Intelligence Network

Information to improve clinical servicespresentation

This presentation was relating, more particularly, to the commissioning aspect of cancer care in the UK currently and also with reference to the changes that are taking place in the NHS structure.  Di, once again, demonstrated the need for data, it’s analysis and, of course, the imperative requirement for the data to be entered and managed in a good standardised format.

She also explained further the decisions that are made at a clinical level but also with regard to the cost and distribution of services, hospital beds and medication etc.  I guess we are often quick to say that drug A isn’t available or there wasn’t a hospital bed when it was needed or indeed we’re told the cost of something means that it’s too much for our care… but all these factors ARE considerations and hard decisions do need to be made by someone and the buck stops with them.  I can’t imagine the task in hand or the times when they must consider that perhaps they’ve got it wrong or allocated funding to a necessary place when they also know it’s needed elsewhere.  But that’s reality.   It think this presentation really showed other considerations that aren’t usually discussed in the public domain but perhaps should be.

Di also showed us through some of the pages of the Cancer Commissioning Toolkit which is online and available to health professionals, allied healthcare and of course commissioners.  It was fascinating to see the depth to which the system goes and how it can be utilised to assist with ‘best’ decision making at a local level.  The presentation shows many pages and search profiles to give you an idea of the system if you’re unable to create an account.

Like most of the discussions today, this highlighted once again the importance of good, clean data, accurate inputting and standardised information.  Sharing information and accessing information and data for joint decision making.


The afternoon’s parallel sessions where again each delegate from the following:

Access to medicines
Less Common Cancers
Information for the public
Supporting commissioning

No surprise here, I attended: Less Common Cancers

The session was introduced by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, Honorary President, Cancer52 and Chief Executive, Breast Cancer Campaign

The focus of the introduction was really expanding what we already know that although each individual ‘rare’ cancer may well be small in numbers, unfortunately together they make up over 52% of the deaths from cancer in the UK each year.  It is terrifically difficult to research or support each of of the individual rare cancers but together we can ensure there is a voice, advocacy and pathway to secure more funding and projects.

We also know that some of the ‘rare’ cancers may switch places on the ‘league table’ of cancers with others that are currently reducing in numbers.  Always a positive mark for those that are being reduced in numbers but not necessarily for those that are increasing and not funded for research!

Matthew Francis, West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit
Patients with Soft Tissue Sarcomas of the Limbs: who treats them? – presentation

Matthew spoke about the reasons why specialist centres are required in the UK, why a specialism will assist patients in the future and indeed improve the care and quality of surgery.  It’s obvious really, if a team perform an operation repetitively they should only improve.  They should find  a new better way of doing things.  There should be less room for error.  However there is also the difficulties of specialist centres not being as accessible as a local or district hospital to consider.

Some brief statistics to demonstrate the rarity of soft tissue sarcomas as well as the variety in age and anatomical site were shown.  Around 2,800 diagnosis in England and approximately 1% of all malignancies diagnosed.  However over 100 different types of soft tissue sarcoma.

Matthew spoke of the absolutely critical importance of the Improving Outcomes Guidance (IOG) which includes a recommendation that ‘patients should undergo definitive resection of their sarcoma by a surgeon who is a member of a sarcoma MDT which treats 100 or more cases per annum’.

Perhaps selfishly, I considered my own Phyllodes case and those of my fellow English people diagnosed – rarely can any of us say that we have been referred to a specialist surgeon who is a member of a sarcoma MDT and who has treated 100 or more cases per annum!  If ever.

On the fifth page of Matthew’s presentation he identifies that there are only 5 centres in England that treat both bone and soft tissue sarcomas.  15 centres that treat soft tissue sarcomas and another 20 diagnostic centres around the country.  The purpose of these are to provide specialist help on sarcomas for GP’s generic information on sarcoma.

The second part of Matthew’s presentation “Where are patients with soft tissue sarcomas treated surgically?” he provided some statistics from the information/data available.

Matthew was able to demonstrate that there is a lack of accurate recorded data in a number of areas and stressed the importance of this information being included.

He showed us the validation and methodology in his referencing and analysis and then was able to show where treatments were in fact carried out.  Only 51% was carried out in specialist centres.  More shockingly were the figures that identified that there was no HES (Hospital Episode Statistic) record for patients diagnosed or indeed surgery recorded as relating!

There will be some instances where surgery isn’t an option (because of other health issues, at the request of the patient or because the outcome wouldn’t warrant the surgery) however the figures don’t seem to stack up.

There is still a great deal more analyses required to be done, together with encouragement by bodies such as NCIN, NCAT and NHS to ensure that data is input correctly, time efficiently and accessibly.  More information regarding staging of sarcomas should be included as should the discussions held at MDTs and more specifically sarcoma MDTs.

Admissions to specialist centres for surgical treatments are increasing but need to increase further. There’s still substantial amount of work to do for sarcoma and rare cancer reporting however having attended this conference last year and spoken with Matthew at each conference, I am confident that headway is being made, and we should thank them for this.  This evidence will aid the case for investment into rare cancers.

Tania Tillett, Royal United Hospital
Evaluation of a Cancer of Unknown Primary Service; the first two years – presentation

Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP) is something that is rarely spoken about.. even more than rare cancers!  It was hard enough to be diagnosed with a rare cancer but to be told that you have a cancer but the medics don’t know where it started from or where the primary site is, must be even more frightening.  The question must arise so often – why don’t they know?

Tania is part of a service that has been going for the past two years and is utilising data to try to establish some evidence why CUP cases exist and indeed can be do something better with the data and records to assist with the identification of a cancer primary site.

Tania spoke of some of the difficulties in the project, not least that often by the time a CUP is reported it is because it is metastatic at the time of diagnosis and unfortunately higher in mortality levels.

Despite the lack of clarification or reporting, Tania was able to report that there have been improvements in the care  of CUP cases, that there are cases where specialists have been involved at a much earlier stage in the care and that there is far more optimism for CUP than previously.  There was however more than needs to be done with services, research and classification.

I came away from this presentation a little buoyed by her work and hopeful that Tania and her team will be able to assist more people diagnosed with CUP.

Lucy Elliss-Brookes, ASWCS Cancer Network
Routes to diagnosis for less common cancers

Lucy spoke about some collaborative work to set up standards and specific routes for diagnostic tools.  She identified again the need for better more conclusive data.  She also spoke of shared data and working WITH other health professionals and bands to ensure that a cohesive reporting structure can be found together with standards for asking, receiving and inputting data.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s