Concr strives to empower “informed” treatment choices for individual patients, irrespective of their educational and socioeconomic background.
- Aims to improve the quality of life by reducing the chances of patients having intense cancer treatment unnecessarily.
- Aims to reduce the financial burden to the NHS of cancer care by reducing the number of women developing secondary metastatic breast cancer.
- Aims to introduce tumour profiling into routine cancer care to support the current information technology challenges faced by the NHS.
Dr Uzma Asghar enrolled onto the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme in 2022 and is a Consultant Medical Oncologist (MBBS, MRCP, PhD) in the NHS and co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of a techbio company, Concr Ltd.
The VISION study, devised and led by Dr Asghar, is Concr’s first clinical validation project exploring the use of machine learning (ML) technology to predict drug responses and patient prognosis for women with early triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
To train the algorithm the team needs 7x less clinical data compared to conventional machine learning approaches.
Dr Uzma Asghar identified the need for the VISION project, exploring the evidence that up to 50% of women diagnosed with stage 1 to 3 TNBC relapse, and approximately 40% of these women die within 5 years despite curative breast surgery(*1-3).
The team concluded that despite chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, this treatment approach will continue to fail if there is no change, and the medicine that is routinely used in clinic for women with triple negative breast cancer is associated with multiple side effects. Additionally, Uzma observed that the NHS clinical teams did not have the technology or the infrastructure to enable quick integration of tumour genetics and the patient’s clinical data. The VISION study aims to address these challenges.
The Concr team identified that change could happen as the number of cancer drugs available to clinicians for the treatment of early breast cancer has significantly increased, genomic profiling of tumours is more affordable, and the UK government recognises the positive potential impact this could have for both cancer and non-cancer patients, which has resulted in the development of genomic laboratory hubs (GLH).
Consequently, the VISION project was designed with a key objective to use ML technology to predict drug responses and patient prognosis for women with early triple negative breast cancer. The predictive algorithm –developed using Concr technology– will be applied to model cancer drug responses and patient survival (outputs) by using patient clinical information and tumour profiling (inputs). Once validated, the algorithm will serve as a decision-support tool for cancer specialists to make “smarter” treatment choices and provide a solution for the NHS by demonstrating how to effectively integrate genomic features and interpret their impact for patient care.
The project addresses 2 key areas:
- It identifies which cancer drugs will work and which drugs will fail before the patient has started treatment.
- Provides a solution for downstream bioinformatics analyses and how to link genomic data to clinical information quickly without the need for a bioinformatician or a genomics expert anywhere in the UK or abroad.
“This innovation is early in development and has not yet reached the clinic. It has the potential to save lives through better treatment choices, reduce the cost of cancer care and help the NHS solve the technological hurdles of introducing tumour profiling into routine clinical care.”Concr
To drive change, you need to change the way people think.
The NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme has given Uzma a sense of community, a greater awareness of infrastructure, opportunities, and increased knowledge around the business side of establishing a company.
”This programme is a useful learning experience for individuals interested in driving innovation in the NHS. It raises business awareness and provides an opportunity to network with likeminded colleagues beyond the day job.’’
‘’The key enablers when innovating are a unified team, having a strong purpose which can inspire others and overall, sheer motivation to push on despite the obstacles.
Ensure you gain senior colleague support early on in your innovation and be patient. Only take on the challenge if you believe in it and expect pitfalls.”Uzma Saddia Asghar
Looking to the future
Concr is working towards the successful activation of the VISION study. The initial phase includes a retrospective clinical study (non-CTIMP) to focus specifically on the early Triple Negative Breast Cancer population and will generate further proof-of-concept data for clinical applicability.
The team would like to identify clinicians in the NHS who are willing to participate in the future prospective VISION study – identify future sites and future end users, test the product, and provide feedback.
Additionally, the team would like to speak to experts from ASHN Network, Accelerated Access Collaborative and NHS to get advice on how to successfully implement Concr predictive algorithms in the clinic, and to be involved in shaping technology-driven policy specifically for cancer in the UK.
Please use the links below for more information about Uzma Saddia Asghar and the VISION project.
- Liedtke C, Mazouni C, Hess KR, et al: Response to neoadjuvant therapy and long-term survival in patients with triple-negative breast cancer. J Clin Oncol 26:1275-81, 2008.
- Guarneri V, Broglio K, Kau SW, et al: Prognostic value of pathologic complete response after primary chemotherapy in relation to hormone receptor status and other factors. J Clin Oncol 24:1037-44, 2006.
- Costa RLB, Gradishar WJ: Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Current Practice and Future Directions. J Oncol Pract 13:301-303, 2017.
TRANSFORMING HEALTHCARE THROUGH INNOVATION