International partners set path to standardized reporting

Canada collaborates on the development of internationally-harmonized cancer pathology datasets

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer is pleased to be a partner in the development of internationally agreed upon and standardized reporting protocols for cancer pathology. This new initiative has been undertaken by International Collaboration on Cancer Reporting (ICCR) project, which brings together pathology communities from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australasia. The project is an important step toward international benchmarking of cancer trends and information sharing.

Pathology is the study of disease, including causes, development and effects on the body. Cancer pathology refers to the careful examination of tissue under a microscope to find out whether it is cancerous or non-cancerous and to determine the type of cancer present, if any. Cancer pathology is key to helping determine the stage of an individual’s disease because it provides information on the type of cancer, the size of the tumour and the extent to which the disease has spread to the surrounding area. Clear and complete pathology reports are therefore critical to the success of a pan-Canadian cancer staging program.

The International Collaboration on Cancer Reporting was launched in February 2011 as an alliance of the College of American Pathologists, the Royal College of Pathologists (UK), the Canadian Association of Pathologists in association with the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, and the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia. As a pilot initiative, the group has developed pathology datasets for prostate, melanoma, endometrium and lung cancer. This standardization will allow the creation of a baseline of pathology information against which each country can measure and evaluate its own data.

The value of publishing standardized cancer protocols for pathology reporting has been recognized in a number of countries and several have worked independently to create their own. However, for the first time, these countries will work collaboratively to develop internationally harmonized core datasets through the ICCR project.

Heading the Canadian arm of the collaboration is Dr. John Srigley, Chair of the Partnership’s National Pathology Standards Advisory Committee and head of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Program at Cancer Care Ontario. Dr. Srigley also chaired the expert working group to develop a pathology dataset for prostate cancer.

According to Dr. Srigley, the harmonized datasets will benefit not just the countries involved, but also ones that do not have the means to develop their own datasets. “We hope this project will have an impact on a global level, and that other countries, including developing ones, will be able to make use of these core datasets,” he said, noting that the core datasets will be readily translatable into languages other than English.

The pilot collaboration for cancer pathology reporting has been so successful among these international partners that the ICCR is now investigating continued efforts, including expansion to include other countries in the initiative. See the ICCR Communique for more information.