15 Aug 2015

What is HMRN?

The Haematological Malignancy Research Network (HMRN) was established in 2004. It's a truly unique project we fund in Yorkshire which draws together researchers from the University of York, 14 hospitals, and one central diagnostic service at St James’s Hospital in Leeds.

What does it do?

HMRN’s aim is to provide rich and insightful data that can be mined in almost endless ways by health professionals, charities, researchers and health commissioners locally, nationally and internationally to improve blood cancer survival rates and patients’ quality of life – in the UK and beyond. The data shows us specific areas where we need to invest more on: once we know what the problems are, we can start finding the solutions.

How does it work?

HMRN covers a population of around 3.6 million people in Yorkshire. Of these, around 2,200 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer each year. HMRN collects data on every single one of these patients from the 14 hospitals in the area, on every clinical aspect imaginable: from their symptoms, path to diagnosis and cancer type through to their exact treatment, treatment response and follow-up appointments. Through surveys with the patients they also collect information about things like their height, weight and lifestyle.

Because one central diagnostic service at St James Hospital performs every test, for each of the patients, HMRN can also collect all of their laboratory data quickly and accurately. We’ve now collected this incredibly rich data from over 20,000 people.

Why does it work?

Because Yorkshire’s demographic make-up in terms of population age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status matches the UK’s as a whole, HMRN’s findings can go on to improve the lives of blood cancer patients right across the country and beyond.

HMRN's impact

But HMRN doesn’t just collect data about individual patients. They also pull in national health data and population data from sources like the UK census, so they can overlay information such as socio-economic status onto the information they have about individual blood cancer patients. This helps them to provide richer data that people can do even more with.

All of this data, when put together, represents a truly unique and world-leading resource for everyone in the blood cancer community. HMRN only exists because we had the foresight to start funding the researchers who began it, 20 years ago. We didn’t know exactly how we’d use the data, but we knew that we’d reap the rewards of our investment in the future.

Today we have the help of other organisations and better technology to analyse the data with, so we now have one of the most comprehensive sources of information in the world, right at our fingertips: a tool which contains the insight and wisdom we need to beat blood cancer.

Bringing data into the real world

Insights from HMRN have been used to:

  • highlight areas where we need to do more research into better treatments and improved diagnostic tests
  • find out if one type of person is more likely to get blood cancer than others
  • identify subsets of the population where symptom awareness is low, leading to later diagnosis and poorer outcomes
  • identify issues in symptoms guidelines used by GPs when they're deciding whether to refer a patient to a specialist
  • find out what types of person respond best to a particular treatment
  • tell doctors which treatment paths are likely to bring the best outcomes for different patients
  • identify links between socio-economic background and survival rates, which could be associated with some groups of people adhering to their treatment regimen better than others.

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