Unique online application helps to interpret statistics on cancer survival

Researchers from the University of Leicester have developed an online tool which presents a variety of measures that quantify the survival of patients with cancer from different perspectives.

The ‘InterPreT Cancer Survival’ tool, which has been developed by University of Leicester PhD student Sarwar Islam, is a newly developed interactive tool to help scientists, health care professionals, patients and the public understand and interpret different statistics on cancer survival.

The tool allows users to examine survival rates for people with melanoma and cancers of the colon, breast, lung, prostate and rectum based on the age and sex of the individual.

The measures presented in InterPreT currently only reflect aggregated national level statistics in England. Patients’ individual prognosis will differ in terms of other important disease characteristics, such as stage of cancer at diagnosis.

The interpretation of these statistics is facilitated through the use of dynamic web-based interactive graphics and clear text descriptions, which is in contrast to existing tools which lack engagement with the user and the ability to make comparisons to obtain a deeper insight into the different measures presented.

Sarwar, who is conducting his PhD in the University’s Department of Health Sciences, said: “At present, we envision InterPreT to be utilised as an educational tool to facilitate the communication and understanding of commonly reported cancer survival statistics. These are often reported poorly and misunderstood by scientists and the general public.

“We also anticipate that this will later extend to a prognostic tool with the inclusion of relevant disease characteristics to accurately predict patient outcome following a cancer diagnosis.”

Sarwar Islam is a Biostatistics PhD student at the University of Leicester. His PhD focuses on further development of flexible parametric modelling methods in competing risks and risk communication of cancer survival statistics through interactive tools.

As part of the development of the tool Sarwar worked with his supervisors, Professor Paul Lambert and Dr Mark Rutherford from the University of Leicester’s Department of Health Sciences and a collaborator, Professor Paul Dickman, based at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

Professor Lambert said: “The interactive tool offers a great resource for other researchers to fully understand measures of cancer patient survival, and how these vary by age. We aim to extend the tool to include more detailed patient characteristics and to a wider range of cancer sites to improve its usefulness even further.”

The online cancer survival tool ‘InterPreT’ can be accessed here: https://interpret.le.ac.uk