Development of an improved stool test for colorectal cancer screening

Photonic biosensor for improved colorectal cancer screening (PHOBICCS)

Supported by Health~Holland, The Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI-AVL) and SMEs Surfix Diagnostics and CRCbioscreen join forces in a new public private partnership to develop an improved screening test for colorectal cancer (CRC). The new test will simultaneously measure multiple newly discovered biomarkers in stool using an innovative and highly sensitive detection technology based on photonic biochips. The collaboration project is called PHOBICCS (Photonic biosensor for improved colorectal cancer screening).

CRC annually affects 1.9 million people worldwide and is a major contributor to cancer death. Current screening programs use a test that detects the presence of blood in faeces. While this test reduces mortality, it fails to detect 25-30% of the cancers and 70% of the advanced adenomas (polyps), leaving room for improvement. NKI-AVL has recently discovered several proteins (biomarkers) in stool that indicate the presence of CRC and adenomas which have a high risk of becoming cancer, based on their molecular features. Using these biomarkers, an improved CRC screening test will be developed.

In the first phase of the project, the partners will assess which of the discovered biomarkers are the most valuable for the sensitivity and specificity of the test, and the most suitable for detection on the photonic biochip. Then, Surfix will develop and optimize assays for the selected biomarkers. When the test is ready, NKI-AVL will validate it by analysing clinical samples from a colonoscopy-controlled screening study. The results of the new test will be compared with those of the current screening test in the same samples.

If the results of the validation study are sufficiently promising, the new test will be further developed and commercialized after the project. To this end, CRCbioscreen will engage in business development activities to build partnerships and attract investors for securing subsequent development and commercialization.

Current colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programs use a test that detects blood in faeces. While it is effective for CRC, it misses most precursor lesions. In PHOBICCS, newly discovered biomarkers for molecularly-defined high-risk polyps will be detected by an innovative photonic biosensing technology to develop an improved CRC screening test.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
4 - 6
Time period
24 months