A UPV and the IIS La Fe team develop a new tool that facilitates the monitoring of cancer patients and decision-making for their treatment.

The tool makes clinical data more accessible and helps healthcare professionals monitor patient care processes.

A team from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), belonging to the Sabien-Instituto ITACA group, in collaboration with the Joint Research Unit on ICT, applied to Reengineering in Healthcare Processes (ERPSS) of the La Fe Health Research Institute (IIS La Fe) and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), has developed an innovative tool that makes clinical data more accessible and helps health professionals to monitor the care processes of cancer patients, facilitating the monitoring of their evolution and decision-making for their treatment, facilitating the monitoring of their evolution and decision-making for their treatment. Its results have been published in the journal Frontiers in Oncology.

Cancer is a primary public concern in Europe, accounting for almost a quarter of all cases worldwide. The prevalence of this disease has increased dramatically over the last two decades, which implies a very high number of patients to be followed up and their specific needs addressed.

"In this context, hospitals collect a large amount of medical information related to cancer care. But once collected, it is tough for healthcare professionals to access and use it effectively to support their decision-making for patient treatment. And this is precisely what our work avoids," explains Zoe Valero, a researcher in the Sabien-ITACA group at the UPV.

"Clinical experts have expressed interest in this tool to measure and improve health outcomes and patient experience during the care process. However, their development and implementation are not straightforward, as they have to face three major challenges: first, having data of sufficient quality to be able to take advantage of these tools; second, having the active participation of the healthcare professionals involved in the process; and finally, presenting the information clearly so that it is useful for decision-making", explain Gonzalo Collantes, a biomedical engineer at ERPSS, and Bernardo Valdivieso, leader of this research group at IIS La Fe.

Thus, the tool analyses the oncological processes of patients using data from different sources, specifically clinical cases and information provided by the patients themselves. Using process mining techniques, it infers highly relevant information for medical staff, facilitating decision-making.

"It is the only one specifically designed to apply Interactive Process Mining methodologies in the fight against cancer. Moreover, oncology experts have been directly involved in its design, unlike other Artificial Intelligence technologies, which are black boxes for professionals," says Zoe Valero.

In this sense, Carlos Fernández Llatas, also a researcher at Sabien-ITACA UPV, stresses that, in the field of clinical tools, it is essential to consider the expectations, needs and requirements of end users to ensure their use, hence the importance of our tool. "Moreover, its use not only allows us to understand the patient's process better but also, given the advances in medicine, it would help to know the advantages and disadvantages of new treatments and new technologies in their treatment".

New indicators for the follow-up of prostate cancer patients

The tool was tested with anonymised data from 1,267 patients diagnosed with prostate cancer. Following the interactive and co-creation methodology proposed by the Interactive Process Mining paradigm, experts in process mining and prostate cancer have collaborated to develop an Interactive Process Indicator (IPI) to understand the evolution and follow-up of prostate cancer patients from the moment of diagnosis.

"We hope these indicators can be standardised so that they can be adapted to other medical centres and serve to understand oncological processes better and optimise treatments," says Zoe Valero.

European project

The tool has been developed in the framework of the European LifeChamps project. Its first results represent the starting point towards a more ambitious scenario within the project, which includes its validation in real conditions, with four pilot studies in Greece, Sweden, the UK and Spain.

"In these studies, our tool will support oncology professionals involved in the follow-up of 250 patients over 50 diagnosed with prostate, breast or melanoma cancer," concludes Carlos Fernández Llatas.

Reference: Valero-Ramon Zoe, Fernandez-Llatas Carlos, Collantes Gonzalo, Valdivieso Bernardo, Billis Antonis, Bamidis Panagiotis, Traver Vicente Analytical exploratory tool for healthcare professionals to monitor cancer patients' progress. Frontiers in Oncology. DOI 10.3389/fonc.2022.1043411    

It has been developed in the framework of the LifeChamps project, and its results have been published in the journal Frontiers in Oncology.