BACKGROUND: Previously, many radiotherapy (RT) trials were based on a few selected dose measures. Many research questions, however, rely on access to the complete dose information. To support such access, a national RT plan database was created. The system focuses on data security, ease of use, and re-use of data. This article reports on the development and structure, and the functionality and experience of this national database.
METHODS AND MATERIALS: A system based on the DICOM-RT standard, DcmCollab, was implemented with direct connections to all Danish RT centres. Data is segregated into any number of collaboration projects. User access to the system is provided through a web interface. The database has a finely defined access permission model to support legal requirements.
RESULTS: Currently, data for more than 14,000 patients have been submitted to the system, and more than 50 research projects are registered. The system is used for data collection, trial quality assurance, and audit data set generation.Users reported that the process of submitting data, waiting for it to be processed, and then manually attaching it to a project was resource intensive. This was accommodated with the introduction of triggering features, eliminating much of the need for users to manage data manually. Many other features, including structure name mapping, RT plan viewer, and the Audit Tool were developed based on user input.
CONCLUSION: The DcmCollab system has provided an efficient means to collect and access complete datasets for multi-centre RT research. This stands in contrast with previous methods of collecting RT data in multi-centre settings, where only singular data points were manually reported. To accommodate the evolving legal environment, DcmCollab has been defined as a 'data processor', meaning that it is a tool for other research projects to use rather than a research project in and of itself.