A new collaborative initiative under development by the Life Sciences Consortium of the US-based CEO Roundtable on Cancer aims to create a shared platform through which historic clinical-trial data can be made available to help researchers come up with more effective therapies.

The Life Sciences Consortium has been working for the last two years on Project Data Sphere, with a formal launch scheduled for spring 2013.

Dr Charles Hugh-Jones, vice president, medical affairs North America for Sanofi Oncology, recently presented the initiative on behalf of the Consortium at a US Institute of Medicine workshop on sharing clinical-research data.

The secure data-sharing environment will bring together life sciences organisations, health advocacy groups, medical-data standards organisations, the contract-research sector, universities and technology providers.

Not so easy

As the CEO Roundtable notes, the scientific, academic and regulatory communities have long encouraged the exchange of clinical-trial data for validation and secondary analyses. Efforts to do so have been hampered, however, by challenges including patient privacy concerns, data security, international law and corporate policies.

By employing advanced data-security and anonymisation strategies, and by pooling multiple studies associated with the same diagnosis, Project Data Sphere addresses both the legal and technical issues associated with sharing clinical-trial data, the Roundtable says.

“Broadly sharing existing clinical trial data for the benefit of all researchers can be a key driver in speeding up cancer research efforts, encouraging innovation, and honouring those patients who have participated in clinical trials as well as those future patients who deserve our very best collective efforts in discovering new and better therapies,” stated Christopher Viehbacher, chief executive officer of Sanofi and chair of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer.

Roundtable origins

The CEO Roundtable comprises chief executives from more than thirty US-based companies representing diverse industries, including non-profit organisations and a number of National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centres.

A non-profit organisation, the CEO Roundtable on Cancer was founded in 2001 by Robert Ingram, then CEO of GlaxoWellcome and now vice chair of the Roundtable.

Ingram had been asked by then US President George H W Bush, as part of the C-Change initiative (formerly the National Dialogue on Cancer), to set up a separate organisation that could “do something more about cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment within your own family as well as within your corporate family”.

The Life Sciences Consortium task force was formed in 2005 to bring together selected CEO Roundtable on Cancer member companies that could collaborate on transforming research and development in oncology to deliver more effective therapies to patients more quickly.