UAlberta Research in Your Life

PolypDx™: Detecting and preventing colon cancer               

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada, third in the United States and one of the most common cancers globally. urine testYet it’s 90% preventable and treatable if caught early—but nearly 50% of cases are not. While early detection is critical, current screening options are invasive, expensive and not patient friendly:

  • Stool test – about 5-15% accurate in detecting colonic polyps (cancer precursor). 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 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. The goal—to prevent colon cancer before it even starts.

From university lab to people everywhere
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 result was 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

PolypDx™ is now available in 12 eastern U.S. states, and is exclusively licensed in five more US states. It also underwent a clinical trial in China. In fall 2018, Alberta's provincial health system chose PolypDx to be part of a new colon cancer-screening project. The project will assess the test as a way to enhance screening efforts and help manage the disease. A national working group will assess the results for potential adoption throughout Canada. In 2019, MTI's US PolypDx patent was extended to 2033, and patents for Japan, Hong Kong, Europe, Canada and Australia were granted. MTI ended 2019 by securing $4.2M venture funding (series A).

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.