Why work with AIMES? A Cancer Research UK case study

Why work with AIMES? A Cancer Research UK case study

Posted on: 04/03/2020


AIMES and Cancer Research UK began working in partnership together last year and we’ve asked Cancer Research UK about the partnership so far.
Cancer Research UK is the world’s largest independent charity focusing on saving lives through innovative research. The Cancer Intelligence team within Cancer Research UK seeks to make data meaningful, so that the charity can continue to influence policy, highlight inequalities and ensure that our public messages have a sound statistical basis.

Cancer Research UK recently decided to upgrade and improve their secure data infrastructure so that we could better work with confidential health data within a secure environment. We found AIMES while researching potential partners for the project.

Cancer Research UK’s initial challenge:

CRUK’s Cancer Intelligence team is the hub of our statistical analyses, as such we regularly work with confidential patient-level health data that we access via Public Health England and the Office for Data Release in England and equivalents across the UK. We recognise that every data point reflects a real-world moment in a cancer patient’s journey. As such it’s critical for us to be able to effectively protect and manage these data. To do so, and to adhere to our Data Security and Protection Toolkit accreditation, we had built a secure remote desktop system where data could be stored and analysed without unauthorised people being able to access it. Whilst the environment was secure, it was inefficient to use due to a lack of computational power.

We decided that it would be better to have a specialist organisation build and maintain the infrastructure we needed. We decided to partner with AIMES because their bid offered the right balance between price, technical specifications and the relevant accreditations and experience required. We were also impressed with their commitment to partnership approach the project, which has continued post-deployment.

Solution presented by AIMES:

We developed an AIMES Trustworthy Research Environment to be a secure area for us to store and analyse confidential data. This solution met our goals for the project; the environment needed to be secure, computationally powerful, and stable. In addition, we were pleased that there was an option to whitelist websites to enable researchers to access software expansions, and to easily expand the size and computational power if we needed to.


It has been far more stable than our pre-existing infrastructure and our analysts like the improved performance; working in R we have found a 30% decrease in the time to compute large datasets and installing R packages is around 10x faster. We are currently planning on expanding the provision to support more research.

How would you describe your process in one sentence prior to using our solution?

Our previous infrastructure had reached the limit of what it could do, and it had become the ceiling to our research ambitions.

What do you like about this solution?

Whilst the TRE works very well, we were perhaps most impressed by the speed of delivery. Once the work began, we had a functional secure environment within a few weeks.

Why choose AIMES? Will you continue to use us in the future?

Yes, we look forward to continuing to work with AIMES and have plans to expand our infrastructure through them.