Led by Phil Quirke (WS1: gastrointestinal pathology, molecular pathology, surgery quality, screening, trials) this theme brings together internationally recognised researcher Heike Grabsch (WS2 Lead: upper gastrointestinal cancer pathology), a multidisciplinary team of gastrointestinal/digital pathologists (Nick West, Caroline Young); bioinformaticist (Henry Wood); molecular pathologist (Susan Richman), AI data scientists (Derek Magee, Jakob Kather, Ghaffari Narmin); commercial AI researchers (Roche, Heterogenius). We will support an exemplary cohort of 14 NIHR/doctoral academic pathology trainees (5 AI CTRF’s) through the Roche-sponsored Northern Academy Pathology Training network.

Strategic Rationale

Annually in the UK, 42,317 bowel, 9,200 oesophageal and 6,595 gastric cancers lead to death in 39%, 87% and 66% patients respectively, with a combined UK (2018) cost of £2.6B. Our Theme will: improve screening, treatment and management of GI cancer; improve NHS mortality/morbidity; reduce NHS costs; create opportunities for commercial development; train the next generation of academic pathologists.

Our vision is to create a world where no person will die from colorectal cancer, and significantly improve mortality from other GI cancers. Using the latest scientific knowledge (e.g. AI, microbiome, big data, genomics) we will create new research, management and treatment paradigms for GI cancer and improve patients’ lives, health and wealth and develop commercial diagnostics.

WS1: Prof Phil Quirke: Pathology driven innovations improving bowel cancer screening

Grand challenge: using quantitative FIT, big data/microbiome/bacterial toxins and circulating DNA to enable earlier identification of disease.

WS2: Prof Heike Grabsch; Apply digital pathology AI solutions to GI cancer

Grand challenge: enhance personalised patient management in Gl cancer by developing AI algorithms to create novel tests, predict treatment response, reduce NHS costs, develop validation populations within our ethnically-diverse deprived populations, and generate novel bedside-to-bench biological insights.

Through interlinked workstreams we will build on our multidisciplinary translational research strengths in GI, microbiomes (CRUK OPTIMISTICC Grand Challenge, screening collaborations generating 10,500 NHS screening microbiomes to date), molecular pathology skills (Innovate/NIHRi4i grants), Big Data collaborations (Eva Morris, Oxford CRUK and YCR programmes), unique 40 digitised gastrointestinal trials, and AI achievements ( Derek Magee, Jakob Kather, Roche, Heterogenius). This supports our innovative Roche funded, Academic Pathology programme building training capacity in the North.