The ICO and the UOC will use big data to boost cancer research

Ainhoa Sorrosal
The two organizations will create standardized indicators using artificial intelligence to increase knowledge of the different aspects of the disease

This January, the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) signed a cooperation agreement to use big data for cancer research. The joint work between the two institutions will enable analysis and more detailed tumour staging using the specific scales for each tumour type and development of automatic classification models to inform treatments and public policies.

Through the hospital-based tumour registry unit, led by Dr Josepa Ribes, the ICO will contribute its expertise in international classification using SNOMED-CT – a standard system for coding, retrieving, reporting and analysing clinical data – as well as the various dictionaries applicable within the software tools developed through this agreement.

Helped by the UOC-BSA Chair in Applied Research and Data Analysis in Health, the UOC will analyse methods for extracting data from the natural language used in the pathology reports included in the shared medical record in Catalonia (HC3) and ways of complementing the pathology reporting system (RAPA database). The HC3 is the electronic record that groups the documents that contain relevant data and information about a patient's status and evolution during a care and treatment process.

"The idea is to take non-structured data and transform them into structured data", explain the project's two coordinators, Francisco Lupiez, director of the UOC's Open Evidence research group, and Dr Ribes, head of the ICO's hospital-based tumour registry unit. "The HC3 has a lot of pathology reports, each one with its own style, format and wordings. Our job will be to transform this variety of texts into indicators", explains Lupiez. This will provide comparable data that will be used for studies and for designing, among other things, public health policies. "With this agreement, we will be able to enrich the Catalan cancer registry", he adds.

In May 2017, the UOC and the ICO had already signed a framework cooperation agreement with a duration of three years. With this new collaboration, which starts this January, the UOC takes another step forward in its strategic focus on applied research, with a clear pragmatic approach and application in real-life situations.


In 2016, the UOC began a similar project with the UOC-BSA Chair, which has been possible thanks to the legacy of Rom Nez Lloreda, a former Badalona resident who bequeathed an inheritance to Badalona Servicios Asistenciales (BSA). The mission of the UOC-BSA Chair is precisely to drive significant progress in the application of big data and analyses in the health field, applying an interdisciplinary approach and obtaining the involvement of all players in the health system.

Open Evidence is BSA's partner in this Chair, and this experience enables this research group to continue moving forward in its goal to become a key player in the transformation of the health industry through innovative solutions based on big data analysis and technology.