Two researchers at a diagnostics machine

We are developing next generation diagnostic tools and biomarkers for improving surgical decision making. Our group performs a wide variety of biomarker research using metabonomics technologies, microRNA arrays, next generation sequencing and nanotechnology.


Key research themes:

Key research themes

Cancer screening and prevention

The Cancer Screening and Prevention Research Group (CSPRG) is an internationally renowned research group based at Imperial College London. Headed by Professor Wendy Atkin, the group has extensive expertise in conducting clinical trials and includes an experienced team of research scientists, statisticians, clinical trial managers, data analysts, data managers and science writers.

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Researchers

Metabolic phenotyping and systems medicine

We work closely with state of the art facilities at the National Phenome Centre, the Clinical phenome centres where we have world leading expertise in metabolomics, systems medicine and bioinformatics. We perform studies in a large number of clinical specialties, to provide novel insights into the mechanisms that drive disease and for translational purposes. Our research interests include the molecular biology of vascular conditions (arterial and venous) and biomarker discovery. We currently perform work in the following fields:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Vascular surgery
  • Bariatic surgery
  • Oesophagogastric cancer
  • Hepatobiliary cancer

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Microbiome

Diet-microbiome interactions in inflammation and cancer

Our group is studying how the bacteria in the gut are involved in the aetiology and treatment of colorectal cancer. We have demonstrated that diet changes the function of the colonic microbiota which in turn modifies cancer risk. Through our prospective observational studies (Kinross, Bowel Cancer Research) we are also characterising mucosal microbial biomarkers for colon cancer risk and defining how the microbiome regulates metabolism during cancer initiation. As part of this work (WCRF, Marchesi, Parry) we are exploring how microbial metabolites modify stem cell proliferation.

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NIHR Diagnostics Evidence Co-operative

The NIHR Diagnostic Evidence Co-operative London is a partnership between Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London. We are one of four national centres of expertise funded by the National Institute for Health Research. Our Centre is based at Imperial College London, St Mary’s Hospital and is led by Professor George Hanna, Head of the Division of Surgery. The overall aim of our Centre is to develop world-class methods, generate evidence and integrate in vitro diagnostics into clinical practice. The DEC London has the following clinical themes:

  • Gut Health
  • Primary Care
  • Respiratory and Infectious Diseases
  • Metabolic Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Trauma
  • Maternal Health
  • Cancer
  • Paediatrics  

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Diagnostic Evidence Co-operative

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Pervasive mobile sensing

The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are lifelong conditions that affect mainly young people. The severity of disease activity has traditionally been measured with questionnaire-based indices. Most patients with IBD are young and own a smartphone. This study explores whether smartphone health sensing technology is superior to traditional questionnaire-based disease activity indices in detecting changes in disease activity in the IBD patient cohort at ICHT. These data will be compared with objective biological evidence of disease activity through metabolic profiling in urine, blood and stool before and after biological therapy or surgical intervention. The study also explores patients’ views on what features they would ideally like to see in an app specifically designed for IBD patients.

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Sensing

A primary motivation of our research is the monitoring of physical, physiological, and biochemical parameters - in any environment and without activity restriction and behaviour modification - through using miniaturised, wireless Body Sensor Networks (BSN). An example is Smart sensing for rapid detection of sepsis and reconstructive flap failure.

Professor Ara Darzi and Professor Guang-Zhong Yang (EPSRC Smart Sensing £3,000k) are developing wearable patch sensors and smart implantable devices for the rapid detection of central line and urinary catheter-related sepsis in cancer patients, pervasive portacath monitoring for detection of neutropenia in patient undergoing chemotherapy, and finally using combined tissue oxygen saturation and piezoelectric flow monitoring, systems for objective detection of tissue flap failure after reconstructive cancer surgery.

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Volatile organocarbons and breath analysis

For oesophageal carcinoma in which early diagnosis is critical to survival, we have developed technologies for the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOC) using mass spectrometry, which has identified biomarkers in patient’s breath towards rapid and reliable cancer diagnosis. This discovery is underpinned by a mechanistic programme to identify the origin of those compounds (e.g. aldehydes, aromatic amino acids and phenols) at genetic and system level. 

The molecular progenitors of these markers are identified by the DESI mass spectrometric imaging analysis of upper GI cancer specimens. In a VOC profiling study using exhaled breath samples from 210 patients with symptoms of upper gastrointestinal disease, it was possible to accurately distinguish oesophageal cancer patients [diagnostic accuracy of 92% (ref)]. We plan to conduct the first multi-centre blinded VOC validation study in a large patient cohort (n=) to validate breath analysis for oesophageal cancer screening. A hand-held sensor for cancer associated VOC detection will be developed to permit rapid diagnostics in the primary care setting.

Researchers

Key researchers in diagnostics and sensing