Bristol AI system matches cancer patients to trials earlier

Health officials expect it will also improve cancer patient outcomes and aid breakthroughs in cancer research.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust will be the first to use the Trial Navigator before it is rolled out across the West. Cancer patient Mike Stuart, aged 62, said having access to clinical trials radically reduced his tumours. Mr Stuart was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2017. It spread to his liver but he had the tumours successfully removed the same year.

Inoperable tumours reappeared in his lungs in 2018. He said taking part in a clinical trial early on in 2020 was a good move.

“It actually turned out I had something called an FGFR mutation which is very targetable,” he said.

“It just so happened that Bristol was one of only six hospitals in the UK included in a clinical trial for a new drug which was a FGFR inhibitor.” Mr Stuart was the first person in the UK to join the trial.

“It’s actually reduced the tumours I had by 71%.

“It would be great if more people had that opportunity,” he added.

The new technology was launched by NHS Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire (SWAG) Cancer Alliance and Inspirata. It works by using the trust’s existing database to quickly find studies most likely to represent a patient-fit for clinical evaluation. The alliance hopes the new system will also give a wider demographic of patients better access to cancer research.

SWAG Cancer Alliance clinical director Dr Helen Winter said “a lack of trial information” can contribute to under-representation in cancer studies.

“We hope that this solution will afford both clinicians and patients in the region a greater choice of potential treatment options,” she said.

The alliance said the plan will also help to build-back cancer services following Covid-19.