UAlberta Research in Your Life

PolypDx™: Detecting and preventing Colorectal cancer               

Every week about 423 Canadians are diagnosed colorectal cancer (CRC) and a 175 die from it. Globally, it is one of the most common cancers. Yet it’s 90% preventable and treatable if caught early—but nearly 50% of cases are not (Colon Cancer Canada). In Canada CRC is the second most commonly diagnosed, globally it’s the third. Early detection is critical, but current screening options are invasive, expensive and not patient friendly:

  • Stool test – about 5-15% accurate in detecting colonic polyps (precursor to colon cancer). Many people don’t complete the test because of its format.
  • Colonoscopy – invasive, very costly and usually involves patient sedation.

Preventing cancer before it starts
UAlberta research led to a diagnostic innovation that dramatically increases both detection accuracy and patient compliance. The technology is based on the emerging science of metabolomics, the study of small molecules or biomarkers (called metabolites). These biomarkers can help identify what’s happening inside your body, and help determine your health, nutrition, infection and disease status. Researchers, Richard Fedorak and Haili Wang, discovered that metabolites could detect colonic polyps far more accurately than currently stool tests. So they developed a urine test to detect these polyps, with the goal to prevent cancer before it even starts.

From university lab to people everywhereurine test
In 2010, UAlberta spin-off, Metabolomic Technologies Inc (MTI) was created to move the technology out of the lab and into the hands of doctors and patients. The company developed and launched PolypDx™ the first and only urine-based test that detects pre-cancerous polyps (adenomatous polyps) with over 70% accuracy (vs. stool test).

Sold in the US and being tested for use in Alberta and Canada-wide

Since 2016, PolypDx™ has been available in 12 eastern U.S. states. Other developments include an exclusive license deal for 5 additional US states and the completion of a clinical trial in China. In fall 2018, PolypDx was chosen to be part of a new colorectal cancer-screening project, called the Canadian Assessment of PolypDx™ (CAP). The project will involve expert physicians, clinicians, patients and laboratory specialists to assess colorectal cancer screening in 3000 patients in five regions located throughout Alberta. A national working group will assess the results for use throughout Canada. In 2019, MTI was granted a US patent extending to 2033 - the 20th patent granted for MTI’s PolypDx. Patents were also granted in Japan, Hong Kong, throughout Europe, Canada and Australia.

What's next
The company plans to develop other metabalomic-based diagnostic tests to address other health issues such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, celiac, IBS, acid reflux, and more.