SCAN 360 Data Drives Cancer Research and Outreach
The proprietary platform offers Sylvester critical data to monitor the cancer burden within the areas it serves.
To unravel the complex tapestry of cancer burden, researchers need comprehensive, easily accessible data, and that’s precisely what SCAN 360 delivers. SCAN 360 is a web-based platform that harnesses the power of big data and technology to give clinicians and researchers extensive information about cancer in Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s South Florida catchment area and beyond.
Established in 2016, the platform — proprietary to Sylvester, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine — utilizes records from multiple sources to provide valuable information about cancer incidence in specific communities. It’s free, and anyone who navigates to the website can use it.
“SCAN 360 is critical to our mission,” said Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director of Community Outreach and Engagement for Sylvester. “It helps me monitor the catchment area, a requirement of our Cancer Center Support Grant, and identify communities with higher-than-expected disease burden. Sylvester’s outreach team then engages community partners to determine the best next steps for collaborative science.”
The site, a model for other National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers around the nation, can filter data by 18 cancer types, geography, ethnicity, gender, age and other factors to provide detailed graphics showing how cancer may be affecting people in a specific community. For example, in Coral Gables, Fla., breast cancer incidence for white women ages 20 to 64 is 101 per 100,000 people. For Hispanic women, it’s 83 per 100,000.
An Enormous Database
SCAN 360 also contains vital information about cancer risk and clinical factors, social determinants of health, cancer staging, risk behaviors, screening efforts, environmental factors, health insurance access and much more — an informational gold mine for researchers.
This ability to gather and filter detailed demographic information about cancer incidence is paying big dividends in research and community outreach, allowing Sylvester and other organizations to better focus their efforts. For example, the platform can provide insights into cancer incidence rates, the percentage of late-stage diagnoses, mortality rates and how many years of life are lost. These figures could be used to inform initiatives or programs to help communities.
“We can apply a variety of methods, such as epidemiology, clinical health services research and genomics, to evaluate factors that may be associated with excess cancer burden and cancer disparities,” said Brandon Mahal, M.D., Sylvester assistant director of Community Outreach and Engagement and assistant professor at the Miller School. “Findings can then be mapped by neighborhood and directly translated to populations at high risk for cancer through comprehensive community outreach.”
However, pulling together all this data is no easy feat. SCAN 360 unites information from the U.S. Census, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency and other government and nonprofit organizations. In addition, information from Sylvester’s Game Changer vehicles, mobile medical units that provide cancer screenings, and other community outreach efforts provide additional data. It can be challenging to harmonize these diverse information sources, which can use different methods to gather and present data, but the benefits have been enormous for Sylvester scientists and the communities they study.
“I recently spoke with a researcher who was looking at pancreatic cancer and how certain neighborhood-level social determinants of health were associated with outcomes,” said Miller School biostatistician Lauren Nahodyl, who helps manage the database. “We’ve had similar conversations with many other scientists for different cancer types. It also helps us make sure our clinical trials are aligned with population distribution for ethnicity and other factors.”
More Effective Outreach
Game Changer is laser-focused on early detection, and SCAN 360 is an invaluable tool to ensure screening services reach people within an area flagged for higher incidences of a particular cancer.
“The data in SCAN 360, helps us identify which communities may need certain types of cancer screenings,” said Valerie Bethel, Ph.D., director of research support for the Sylvester Office of Outreach and Engagement. “If SCAN 360 is showing that men are at a particularly high risk for prostate cancer in a specific community, we reallocate resources to do more scanning there.”
Shria Kumar, M.D., a gastrointestinal cancer researcher at Sylvester and Miller School assistant professor in digestive and liver diseases, is leveraging SCAN 360 and the Game Changer vehicles to study South Floridians infected with Helicobacter pylori, a pathogenic gut bacterium that can cause inflammation and, in some cases, stomach cancer.
“Partnering with Game Changer, we examine infection rates and how they vary among different groups, including immigrants from different countries,” said Dr. Kumar. “If a person has H. pylori, we give them free treatment on the spot and arrange follow-up testing. This study will help us identify the factors that increase a person’s risk of having the bacterium and help inform the best ways to offer treatment for people at higher risk.”
For the Game Changer vehicles and other outreach efforts, data is a two-way street. In addition to relying on SCAN 360 to help focus their efforts, these teams can feed outreach information back into the database.
“There’s enormous collaboration throughout Sylvester,” said Dr. Bethel. “We track all the information from these community interactions and share it with SCAN 360 and other team members to make sure we’re targeting communities that need these services the most.”
SCAN 360’s current iteration uses data gathered between 2012 and 2016. However, in the next few months, the site will be updated with information from the past five years. In addition, the site will have a remodeled user interface and more resources.
“It’s been a great tool to provide easily accessible data to public health professionals, whether that’s an epidemiologist, an oncologist or whoever,” said Nahodyl. “It helps us identify potential drivers of cancer burden within our catchment area and develop better means to overcome them.”