Alberta planning a new colorectal cancer screening strategy with U of A spinoff Metabolomic Technologies' PolypDx™

PolypDx™ is the first and only urine-based test with a high sensitivity for detection of precancerous polyps

25 October 2018

Metabolomic Technologies Inc. (MTI)―a University of Alberta spin-off company founded by alumna Haili Wang, '03 MD, '11 MSc, and assistant professor of surgery; and Richard Fedorak, dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry― announced the launch of a $1.4 million project to evaluate a new colorectal cancer screening strategy using PolypDx™, the first and only urine test for the detection and prevention of colorectal cancer.

The science for the test was first developed as part of Wang's master's degree, and has since led to the development of MTI, a multimillion-dollar business deal, and the 2017 ASTech foundation Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Technology Award.

"It's pretty incredible," Wang said. "This started when I was a surgical resident in the Clinical Investigator Program (CIP), and 10 years later we're seeing it come to life. Not a lot of people get to see their work applied in this way."

Through a significant investment from Alberta Innovates, this project brings together the Alberta Colorectal Cancer Screening Program, Alberta Health Services Public Laboratory Services and the Digestive Health Strategic Clinical Network in coordination with the U of A School of Public Health's Health Technology & Policy Unit (HTPU), Institute of Health Economics and DynaLIFE Medical Labs.

The project, called the Canadian Assessment of PolypDx™ (CAP), will engage expert physicians, clinicians, patients and laboratory specialists to assess colorectal cancer screening in 3,000 patients, in five regions located throughout Alberta. A national working group of key provincial and national leaders in colorectal cancer screening will assess the results of this screening strategy for use across Canada. This project brings a made-in-Alberta technology to Albertans and serves as a launching pad to take the innovative health technology to the rest of Canada.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada and the second and third leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women, respectively. With early detection through screening, this form of cancer is preventable. About half of all colorectal cancers in Canada are diagnosed at stages III and IV. The five-year colorectal cancer survival rate changes from 90 per cent at stage I diagnosis to 13 per cent at stage IV diagnosis.

Results from programs, such as the Alberta Colorectal Cancer Screening Program, have increased provincial screening rates from 36 per cent in 2008 to 53 per cent in 2012. However, this is still short of the provincial target of 70 per cent and has not significantly improved the low screening rates in rural areas.

Previously validated by clinical trials, PolypDx™ has been chosen for this strategy based on ease of sample collection, superior transport stability and early detection of precancerous polyps. PolypDx™ is anticipated to increase compliance with screening and improve early detection of colorectal cancer or its precursor condition in residents of rural and remote areas.

"I see this strategy as a great option for Albertans who require screening and live in the more remote areas of our province," said Clarence Wong, '95 MD, Medical Director of the Alberta Colorectal Cancer Screening Program and associate professor of gastroenterology. "Research into innovative screening modalities, besides the current standard Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), has always been part of the mandate of the provincial program. PolypDx is a homegrown, viable technology that may meet the needs of those more isolated and harder to reach patients. It's quick, easy and can truly save your life."