Lots of research studies focus on discovering new diagnostic tools or medical treatments for cancer patients. But it is important to take the next step to understand how this actually works in practice when giving individual care to patients, and how we can ensure that medical findings are appropriately translated into the real-world setting such that each patient gets the right sort of treatment for them specifically.

Why was this work needed?


Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is an aggressive type of blood cancer, commonly treated with chemotherapy. However, some types of ALL are likely to need less treatment than others, and we need to find ways to understand this so we can make sure we're giving people the right amount of treatment according to their type of disease.

What has been done?


One study has looked at data collected from 15,000 people with ALL who took part in a trial called HARMONY. It seeks to find out how well current tools perform at determining how much treatment someone should receive and if there are biomarkers that could tell clinicians what type of ALL someone has and therefore what level of treatment they should receive.

What are the benefits?

This research could help make sure everyone is given the most appropriate amount of treatment for their type of ALL. It could mean that some people are given less chemotherapy, sparing them from additional side effects, and others are given more, to make sure they don’t see their disease return.

What type of data is involved?

The study utilizes the Harmony platform, which draws data from a range of countries on around 5,000 patients with ALL. For this project, the countries included The Netherlands, Nordic countries, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic and Italy. This does not include the UK, but the study itself is taking place in England, and will extrapolate the findings to make recommendations about how patients with ALL should be treated across the board. Such a large patient cohort, with data from several randomized, controlled clinical trials, will allow for strong links to be made between biomarkers and outcomes from different treatments.


The Harmony 'Big Data Platform' draws together anonymous data from its data providers (including UK universities such as Cardiff, Queen University Belfast, and Southampton) and is collected securely in line with legal and ethical requirements. The data providers donate data from hospitals, trials, biobanks and pharma data. Only data essential to the analysis are accessible to a limited group of people for a specific amount of time, and all data is anonymized.

Who funds and collaborates on this work?

The study is being run by researchers at Newcastle University and is being funded by Blood Cancer UK.

Where can I go for more information?

Blood Cancer UK: Ensuring people with ALL get the most appropriate level of treatment

Harmony: Use of Big Data to improve outcomes for patients with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Harmony: Big Data Platform