The Molecular Diagnostics Theme aims to deliver true precision medicine for NHS patients by improving the detection, monitoring, and treatment of disease. The Molecular Diagnostics Theme is focused on improving medicine by better classification of disease, allowing more accurate prediction of patients’ prognosis and better prediction of how they will respond to different treatments. This will help to offer the most suitable treatments to patients with cancer and other diseases.
Our focus is predominantly on cancer and it is divided into different areas of research:
- Sub-theme 1: Cancer Genomics for Patient Benefit – Dr David Wedge
- Sub-theme 2: Predicting disease progression – Professor James East
- Sub-theme 3: Precision Biomarkers – Dr David Church
- Sub-theme 4: Experimental Pathology – Professor Clare Verrill
Introductory video about Molecular Diagnostics by Theme Lead, Professor Paresh Vyas
- Digitisation of cellular pathology services and deployment of AI – Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) has deployed a digital pathology platform in its diagnostic cellular pathology laboratory, which has enabled full digitisation. We have moved from 0% digitisation in 2018 to full digitisation in 2020, which has been a fantastic multidisciplinary effort from the NHS histopathology team together with our Biomedical Science colleagues. Read more.
- Towards a common tissue-based marker of inflammation for Immune Mediated Inflammatory Diseases (IMIDs) – The aim of the project is to produce an AI analysis approach to integrate the quantity and organisation of inflammatory infiltrates using standard diagnostic H&E sections in order to determine an index of tissue inflammation (ITI) that maps onto clinical or other parameters.
- Genomic analysis for improved cancer care – Using large numbers of cancers which have undergone comprehensive analysis of their DNA (whole genome sequencing), we are studying the molecular alterations that drive common cancers at unprecedented scale and detail. By combining this work with focused laboratory analysis, we aim to identify factors which can be leveraged to improve care of patient with these diseases.
- Immune response against cancer – We study the interaction between cancers and the immune system to better understand how cancers escape immune destruction. Our aim is to identify factors we use to guide patient care, or target to increase effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies.
- FIT for symptomatic colorectal cancer – Oxford has led the implementation of Faecal Immunochemical Testing (FIT) to triage high risk patients for endoscopy during the covid crisis, avoiding “covid cancer collateral damage”. We are now looking to add in blood tests and other patient factors to improve accuracy further and show that this is a cost effective strategy for the NHS. Read more.
- Colitis associated cancer risk – Patients with bowel inflammation are at increased risk of colorectal cancer. We have developed genetic biomarkers to help predict risk even in patients with no precancerous change. We’ve also used the Oxford IBD database to make and validate a risk prediction model in a web-based app that can estimate risk on the basis of features of precancerous polyps detected at colonoscopy, and present this information in a patient-friendly way for doctors and IBD patients in the outpatient clinic.
- High grade serous ovarian cancer is the most common type of ovarian cancer. Accurate molecular classification of serous ovarian cancer is required for obtaining better prediction of patient outcome and for guiding therapy. Our work focuses on dissecting tumour genetic and non-genetic heterogeneity to inform accurate disease stratification. Read more.
Spotlight on Anna Schuh – Associate Professor
Director of Molecular Diagnostics, PI of early diagnosis studies in the UK, Uganda and Tanzania
National Roles: GeCIP Lead for Haematological Malignancies and Chair of NCRI CLL Subgroup
VC Innovation Award for Anna Schuh social enterprise work in Tanzania
Blood diseases are a serious problem in sub-Saharan Africa. 90% of all childhood blood cancers occur here. Effective and affordable therapies are available from governments, but testing is not. For example, East Africa’s only private genetics lab sends samples to America at a cost of up to $4000 per test. In partnership with the Tanzanian Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, the Muhimbili National Hospital and the Children Cancer Charity Tumaina la Maisha (their lives matter) in Dar-es-Salaam, Oxford academics have begun to setup a social enterprise called SEREN to fill this gap. In order to bring precision diagnostics to Tanzania, they have developed novel DNA tests for $10 per test and trained lab technicians, scientists, nurses and doctors from five different hospitals in Tanzania and Uganda. As of January 2020, 222 children have been tested, and the system is ready to be expanded to also include innovative digital pathology and antibody testing for common infectious diseases in the region. Collaborating biotech companies include Illumina, Oxford Nanopore Technology, Mologic and Alexapath.
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