News Release

Cancer Research UK joins Alliance for health data to improve lives through research and innovation

Business Announcement

Health Data Research UK

By joining the UK Health Data Research Alliance (the ‘Alliance’) Cancer Research UK will work in partnership with some of the UK’s leading health and research organisations to maximise opportunities for trustworthy use and sharing of data for research and development. By making cancer data assets available for research, this partnership will help contribute to Cancer Research UK’s mission to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the essential use of data in research for enabling and accelerating the development of life-saving treatments and vaccines. Data research has contributed to our understanding of the impact of the pandemic on the health and outcomes of people with diseases, such as cancer. However, there are still significant barriers to conducting this type of research as most data about us – including our patient records, genomic data and medical imaging data – are hard to access and require significant effort to make usable. 

To overcome this, the 70 members of the UK Health Data Research Alliance – a membership body for leading UK health and research organisations that manage health data – are working together to create consistent standards, to create more transparency on which datasets are available, and to shape regulations on the ethical use of health data for research and innovation at scale.

As part of its membership of the Alliance, Cancer Research UK (and its innovation engine Cancer Research Horizons) will make information on datasets under their control available on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway – the UK’s portal for discovery and access to health data.  The first such dataset is the OPTIMAM database (OMI-DB) which contains large numbers of mammography images collected from the National Breast Screen network. These images can be used to support research into the early detection of breast cancer.

All members of the Alliance are invited to develop best practice in areas such as privacy, transparency, public engagement, inclusivity and governance to ensure that health data are shared and used responsibly by researchers and innovators.

The Alliance is convened by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) and is part of the UK-wide capability for the responsible use of health data for research and innovation, currently funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Dr Catherine Elliot Director of Research at Cancer Research UK, says:

 “Last week we launched our new research data strategy, working with people affected by cancer to ensure that we maximise the benefit of research data to improve patient outcomes. Joining the Health Data Research UK Alliance will help us share best practice, tackle common challenges and foster collaboration in aid of the goals we all share, which is to make sure that data are best used to support quality research so we can drive forward breakthroughs for patients.”

Dr Paola Quattroni, Head of Alliance Strategy & Engagement at Health Data Research UK, says:

“We are delighted to welcome the largest charitable funder of cancer research in the world to the UK Health Data Research Alliance. This is the beginning of a long-lasting and valuable partnership that will bring together the cancer research community, Alliance members and Health Data Research UK in a joint effort to accelerate improvements to people's lives through trustworthy use of health-relevant data.”

Debbie Keatley, a member of Health Data Research UK’s public advisory board, says:

"I know how important early diagnosis can be. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer it had already spread to nearby lymph nodes. For me, this meant that as well as surgery I needed radiotherapy and chemotherapy too. If I had been diagnosed earlier, I might not have needed this, and while I’m grateful to be a cancer survivor, I live with the consequences of treatment.

As a patient advocate, I meet many people living with long-term effects that really impact their lives and I have lost too many friends whose cancer could not be cured. I'm delighted to welcome CRUK as a member of the Alliance. Responsible and timely data use is a long-held aim of cancer patients who want to see researchers make the most of the data we already have in order to help save lives.”





Notes to editors


About the UK Health Data Research Alliance

The UK Health Data Research Alliance (HDR Alliance) is an independent, not-for-profit alliance of the UK’s leading health and research organisations.



About Cancer Research UK:  

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research, influence and information. 
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.  
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.  
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK wants to accelerate progress and see 3 in 4 people surviving their cancer by 2034. 
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into the prevention and treatment of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses. 
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK is working towards a world where people can live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer. 


For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook 


OPTIMAM mammography image database (OMI-DB) -


About Health Data Research UK

Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) is the national institute for health data science. HDR UK’s mission is to unite the UK’s health data to enable discoveries that improve people’s lives. HDR UK is funded by UK Research and Innovation, the Department of Health and Social Care in England and equivalents in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and leading medical research charities.        


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