How big data can help prostate cancer patients

14 May 2018
How big data can help prostate cancer patients

ecancer is delighted to be a partner in PIONEER, a brand new five-year project, involving 32 partners across 9 countries, recently approved by The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).

PIONEER’s goal is to ensure the optimal care for all European men diagnosed with prostate cancer by unlocking the potential of big data and big data analytics.

On May 14th, the members of the PIONEER consortium (Prostate Cancer DIagnOsis and TreatmeNt Enhancement through the Power of Big Data in EuRope) participated in the launch of a new public-private Pan-European prostate cancer research initiative in Amsterdam.

"PIONEER will harness the power of big data to transform the field of prostate cancer research from the perspective of all relevant stakeholders including clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, payers and most importantly patients", Prof. James N’Dow, PIONEER Coordinator.


Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in Europe, representing 1 in 10 of all cancer deaths in men.

Prostate cancer healthcare costs were estimated at €8.43 billion per year in the EU in 2009 and accounted for 7% of all cancer costs in Europe.

At present, there are a number of critical knowledge gaps in relation to the screening, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer patients, including:

  • lack of standardisation of prostate cancer definitions across all stages of the disease;
  • insufficient knowledge of the risk factors for developing prostate cancer;
  • insufficient knowledge of patient characteristics, including genetic profiles, for optimal stratification of patients at time of diagnosis;
  • lack of meaningful engagement of all key stakeholders, including patients, when defining core disease outcome sets;
  • lack of effective implementation of knowledge gained into clinical practice including knowledge informed by real-world data.

This lack of knowledge means that predicting which patients will have the best outcomes with specific treatments is suboptimal, whilst prediction of which patients may be managed safely without treatment remains poor.

PIONEER’s unique approach is to firstly identify critical evidence gaps in prostate cancer care through a detailed prioritisation exercise including all stakeholders: clinicians, patients, researchers, pharmaceutical industry, and payers.

PIONEER will then standardise and integrate existing ‘big data’ from quality multidisciplinary data sources into a single innovative data platform, which will leverage two existing data platforms, tranSMART and OHDSI, developed in previous IMI projects.

This will result in a unique and comprehensive data set that consists of the most relevant prostate cancer clinical trials and registries, large epidemiological cohorts, electronic health records, and real-world data from different European and non-European patient populations.

Based on a unique set of methodologies and advanced analytical methods, PIONEER will transform the field of prostate cancer care with particular focus on improving prostate cancer-related outcomes, health system efficiency and the quality of health and social care.

In addition, PIONEER will provide recommendations for standardised care pathways for clinical centres across Europe.

The use of these data sets during and beyond PIONEER will be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) both for human and machine-driven activities.

This will increase their interoperability with current and future multifactorial prostate cancer datasets.

Lastly, PIONEER will use ‘big data’ to test new prognostic algorithms to provide new hypotheses for future high quality prospective studies, and where appropriate, for implementation into daily clinical practice.

PIONEER is funded through the IMI2 Joint Undertaking and is listed under grant agreement No. 777492 and is part of the Big Data for Better Outcomes Programme (BD4BO). IMI2 receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).