Dr Katie Spencer is an Academic Consultant Clinical Oncologist based in the Academic Unit of Health Economics, University of Leeds and Leeds Cancer Centre. She developed expertise in health economic methodologies and the use of routine cancer data during her Medical Research Council-funded Doctoral Training Fellowship and was subsequently appointed as the National Disease Registration Service’s clinical lead for radiotherapy data. Her research is strongly collaborative and focuses on using routinely collected healthcare data to improve the value and equity of cancer care.

About Katie’s Big Data for Complex Disease Fellowship project

Half of people in the UK will develop cancer in their lifetime, but outcomes are not as good as those in economically similar countries. For example, if our outcomes matched those seen in Sweden, we would lose over 300,000 life years less in the UK each year due to cancer. In the UK, outcomes are worse for people from poorer areas but we don’t fully understand why. This could be due to having more advanced cancer at diagnosis, other medical conditions or receiving different care. Reducing health inequalities is an agreed high priority. Without understanding what the causes are though it’s difficult for policymakers to know what to do. We need information that spans the whole cancer pathway and that recognises the cost of delivering changes to existing care pathways.

This project seeks to understand how money is spent on cancer care in the NHS. It will use real-world data from patients treated for four common cancers (lung, bowel, oesophageal and lymphoma) to find out how much NHS cancer treatment costs. It will look at what, where and on whom money is spent to understand if this is fair for all people with cancer. For example, for people from poorer parts of the country or who are treated at different hospitals. The project will see if these differences are leading to worse cancer outcomes or if these are due to other things. This can be tricky to work out so the Fellowship project will use newer methods, called causal inference, to help understand this.

By working with NHS leaders and patients the project will make sure that the results presented can help them to find ways to reduce cancer inequalities. This will help to ensure that all patients get the right care and have the best chance of surviving cancer, no matter what their background or where they live.