News posted 26 January, 2022

Trial of wearable health technology for cancer patients opens

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A new trial opens in Greater Manchester today which is to test cutting-edge wearable technologies involving patients who have received cancer treatment.

The commercially-available health sensors and devices produce a digital fingerprint of vital signs that could allow doctors to assess the progress of their patients.

A photograph of the smart watch and smart ring
Smart watch and smart ring

Called, EMBRaCE, (Enhanced Monitoring for Better Recovery and Cancer Experience), the trial is a collaboration between Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and The University of Manchester.

The trial opens initially for blood cancer, lung, and colorectal cancer patients and will run across Greater Manchester.

The technologies under investigation include:

  • a smart ring, worn on any finger made by the company Oura
  • the Withings ScanWatch, a hybrid smartwatch
  • the Isansys system, which is worn on the chest.

The technologies can assess a range of vital signs, including electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, temperature, physical activity levels and sleep.

Dr Anthony Wilson, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Critical Care at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI), part of MFT, is the clinical lead for the project.

He said: “Cancer places a huge burden on the lives of people everywhere. This study uses cutting-edge technology that can monitor people during their treatment, with devices that they can wear all the time.

“We hope that it will provide new insights into how people cope with cancer treatment and what we can do to improve their recovery.”

Dr Michael Merchant, Senior Lecturer in Proton Therapy Physics, at The University of Manchester, said: “This trial will assess if the latest wearable technology has a role in cancer care.

“It will help us to identify ways that clinical staff can individualise treatment before, during, and after therapy.

“We will find out if 24/7 data from these wearable sensors can be used to support patient recovery and provide accurate measurement outside clinic.

“It could even support the development of new cancer treatments by developing a digital platform for clinical trials in cancer involving wearable devices or fitness trackers.”

Photograph of Senior Clinical Research Nurse, Sindhu Sibin, with Thomas Westworth
Senior Clinical Research Nurse, Sindhu Sibin, with Thomas Westworth

Thomas Westworth, 70, is from South Lakeland in the Lake District. Now retired, he was self-employed within the building trade for 40 years, and has been receiving care for lymphoma at Manchester Royal Infirmary, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), for three months.

Mr Westworth will be taking part in the trial in the next couple of weeks when he receives his first infusion of CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell) therapy – a personalised medicine used to treat patients with certain types of leukaemia and lymphoma.

Mr Westworth said he is ‘fascinated by technology’, and was happy to consent to taking part in EMBRaCE when he was approached by the study team.

“I said if could be of any help I’d be happy to take part,” said Mr Westworth.

“I think the actual idea behind the trial is fantastic, I think it should help people.

“All the staff here at Manchester Royal Infirmary and other hospitals where I have been cared for have been fantastic, everyone is absolutely brilliant.”

Steve McConchie, CEO of Aptus Clinical, a clinical contract research organisation based in Alderley Park, Cheshire, said: “We are delighted that the clinical data collection and curation infrastructure we initially created to support an important piece of exploratory research into COVID-19 is being expanded to assess the utility of patient wearables to improve the care of cancer patients across Manchester.

“We look forward to continuing this collaboration with our partners at MFT , The Christie, and Zenzium and are pleased to be supporting research with the potential to make a real difference to patient’s care.”

Photograph of Thomas Westworth wearing the smart ring and watch
Thomas Westworth wearing the smart ring and watch

EMBRaCE is partnered with the health and biomedical data science company Zenzium Ltd to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyse and identify key patterns within patient data.

Anthony D. Bashall, Managing Director of Zenzium, said: “We firmly believe the future of healthcare will be driven by continuous rather than episodic measurements to improve patient outcomes on an individual basis.

“We are excited to be part of this ground-breaking collaboration with some of the best entities in the field, which gives us the opportunity to bring our technology, knowledge and expertise in wearable devices enabled by AI to potentially make a real difference in the lives of patients.”

Mr Steve Sweeney, cancer survivor and chair of the group of patients who have advised the project commented: “A cancer diagnosis is fraught with a variety of challenges for patients, way beyond the clinical treatment pathway itself.

“We know patients have anxiety around ongoing monitoring and the gap between GP and hospital cancer care, issues with fatigue and sleep disturbance, problems maintaining fitness and the need for greater psychological support.

“The EMBRaCE programme addresses these challenges head on, allowing participants to take more proactive control of their cancer journey through wearables and the data they provide clinicians. These patient pioneers will help shape the future of cancer care in the UK.”

Professor Dave Shackley, Director of Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance and the Senior Responsible Officer for Cancer in Greater Manchester said: “We are delighted in Greater Manchester to have such a fantastic study taking place. The smart use of digital technology is going to be pivotal for high quality, personalised cancer care for our patients. We look forward to hearing the outcomes of this exciting research project and in particular implementing any key findings.”