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CIHR Team in Genomic, Imaging and Modeling Approaches to Advance Population-Based Colorectal Cancer Screening

This program's focus is to develop novel easy-to-administer tests that identify individuals at the earliest, most curable stages of the disease

Project Leaders Isabella Tai , Andrew Coldman, Stuart Peacock, Mark Elwood, Calum MacAulay, Haishan Zeng
Involved Organizations
University of British Columbia
BC Cancer Agency
Funding Agencies
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Anatomical Model showing the human colon


This CIHR-funded grant will help to address current problems with colorectal cancer screening in Canada. Current screening methods, particularly the Fecal Occult Blood Test, have not been widely adopted by physicians and patients due to high false-positive results, which lead to uncomfortable colon preparation for invasive, costly and not risk-free procedures to confirm the presence or lack of polyps. As a consequence, the mortality rate from colorectal cancer is substantially higher than it could be if less invasive, safer and more affordable tools were in routine use. Hence, it is important to develop better screening tools that are both safe for the patients, and cost effective for the health care system.

Using a multi-disciplinary team approach consisting of a broad cross section of scientific and health care specialists, we will work to: create new diagnostic tests to evaluate a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer (i.e., low, medium or high risk based on genetic markers); develop a safe and novel imaging probe that may be used in a physician’s office; and finally, assess whether these methods are more effective and more economical than current methods.


The CIHR Team of Research Scientists and Clinicians

Dr. Tai’s lab will mainly focus on the genomics aspects of the study, and will identify and validate genetic markers that will be suitable for use in screening applications. These screening tests will help to identify people that are at high, medium or low risk of developing polyps and/or colorectal cancer, with the ultimate goal to stratify high-risk individuals for frequent screening, and low-risk individuals for infrequent screening.

Drs. MacAulay and Zeng will focus on creating a prototype photonic imaging probe that can ultimately be commercialized and safely used for colorectal cancer screening. This work will be coupled to Dr. Tai’s work and will investigate the benefit of using optical contrast agents coupled to specific molecular markers to improve colorectal cancer detection.

Drs. Coldman, Peacock and Elwood will extend their existing Markov simulation models to assess the potential benefits of using improved screening technologies, including the genomic and imaging tools developed in this study, and to conduct economic evaluations of the screening applications for Canada.


Recent Publications Arising from this Research:

Contact Information

For all project related inquires please contact us.

Anita Fang, Projects Manager
Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency
Phone: 604-675-8000 x 7503
Fax: 604-675-8178