Interview: Anna Pedrola Gómez and Cristina Viaplana of the ODysSey Group, VHIO

Last year, we published an article on the EUCANCan website about Onco Trial Tracks, a public online platform that supports healthcare providers in finding the most suitable clinical trial for cancer patients. The platform is developed and managed by the Oncology Data Science Group (ODysSey) at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) in Barcelona, Spain. Directed by Dr Rodrigo Dienstmann, the group leads EUCANCan’s Work Package 5, standardized clinical reporting across sites.

The EUCANCan Communications Team recently met with Cristina Viaplana, Senior Research Support Technician, and Anna Pedrola Gómez, Biomedical Engineer, both of VHIO’s ODysSey group, to learn more about their work with Onco Trials Track.

Interdisciplinary collaboration – an integral part of scientific research

Anna Pedrola Gómez joined the ODysSey group about three years ago after completing her master’s in Bioinformatics from the Open University of Catalonia and is now providing broad technical support to the group. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia/BarcelonaTech.

“Data management is a central part of modern research and I find it very rewarding to see how data that I have been working with can have positive practical implications on patient care,” says Anna Pedrola Gómez.

Cristina Viaplana recently celebrated ten years at VHIO. She joined the institute in 2001 as an Oncology Data Manager and took on the role of Senior Research Support Technician in 2016. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s in Biology from Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona and the University of Barcelona, respectively, as well as a master’s in Project Management from Instituto Superior Europeo de Barcelona (ISEB). Furthermore, she is currently pursuing an MBA, also at ISEB. In her current role, she is responsible for coordinating the creation and management of databases managed by ODysSey and ensuring smooth integration from different data sources.

“My motivation is the prospect of enabling better research. Streamlined data access and management is critical for modern research,” says Cristina Viaplana.

Collaboration between people with different backgrounds and expertise is another central element of efficient research. In their daily routine, they interact with a wide range of different professional profiles, such as clinicians, basic researchers, nurses, pathologists, radiologists, bioinformaticians, etc. This is crucial to improve the research at the institution and also to enrich their expertise with different vantage points.

“We complement each other. I would not accomplish as much without Cristina. My technical skills and her background in oncology research make a very good tandem.” says Anna Pedrola Gómez.

“And I am equally dependent on Anna. Her perspective and fresh ideas help us automate much work that, were we to do it manually, would be very time-consuming for the entire group,” says Cristina Viaplana.

Onco Trials Track

For OncoTrialsTrack, Anna Pedrola Gómez and Cristina Viaplana were involved in the application development and are responsible for managing the datasets that are automatically integrated into the platform. They also monitor requests that come in through the platform and facilitate the connection between clinicians or patients with an interest in a particular trial and the team working with the trial. This project is challenging because it requires a continuous update with the most recent status of the clinical trials at VHIO and because of the new trials that are included every month. Since the launch of OncoTrialsTrack, they have included all the active trials from the Oncology and Hematology units at VHIO. Onco Trials Track is a live app that requires specific customizations to adapt to the different characteristics of the clinical trials. They are continuously evolving.

The initial response from the healthcare community has been overwhelmingly positive. OncoTrialsTrack now includes close to 500 clinical trials conducted at VHIO. Each week, the OdysSey group receives a number of requests from clinicians who have found a trial that they wish to learn more about or refer a patient to.

As a next step, Anna Pedrola Gómez, Cristina Viaplana, and their team plan to expand the OncoTrialsTrack platform to include cancer clinical trials conducted at other universities in Spain as well. Anna Pedrola Gómez and Cristina Viaplana are currently preparing the technical aspects of the integration.

EUCANCan is now in its final phase, however, the goal of the OdysSey group is to ensure that OncoTrialsTrack lives on long after the project ends.