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Bethany Van Guelpen

WCMM-associated researcher: Cancer

Colorectal cancer and diagnostic biomarkers

In countries with a western lifestyle, colorectal cancer is a common and often lethal cancer. Catching it early has a major impact on prognosis, but as the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine.

Colonoscopy screening programs can improve prognosis, by detecting asymptomatic, early-stage cancer, as well as prevention, by removal of precancerous polyps and adenomas. But colonoscopies are uncomfortable and expensive, and could be more effective if recommendations were tailored to the individual. We envision a test combining blood-based biomarkers with refined risk profiling to identify high-risk individuals for earlier or more frequent colonoscopy.

The overall aim of this project is to identify, distinguish between, and validate risk-predictive and diagnostic biomarkers of colorectal cancer. We use large population-based and clinical colorectal cancer cohorts, including unique sets of repeated prediagnostic blood samples from the same patients. The project casts a wide net using broad analyses such as proteomics and metabolomics, but also more targeted approaches based on tumour biology and published candidate biomarkers. The large amounts of data will also allow for integrative, so-called multi-omics analyses, for new insights into colorectal cancer biology and to improve biomarker selection.

Bethany Van Guelpen