Colorectal Patients Clinically Validated

Business Impact

OCB provides insights that support more informed clinical decisions following cancer surgery, improving patient out- comes. By minimising overtreatment with chemotherapy, it also reduces the cost of care.

Working with Meridian IT and IBM, OCB is reducing time-to- market for the enhanced ColoProg platform, helping it start to deliver value to patients and generate revenues sooner. The company is already exploring how the solution can be extended to breast and prostate cancers.

Time is of the essence in cancer treatment. With IBM technology, we can get information about a patient’s risk of recurrence and their likely reaction to chemotherapy to clinical decision-makers more quickly, which can have life-saving impact.

David Browning

Chief Executive Officer

How Meridian Helped

Working with IBM Business Partner Meridian IT, OCB continued development of image analysis algorithms to enhance its existing ColoProg platform, based on IBM PowerAI Vision. Running on IBM Power Systems AC922 accelerated servers hosted by Meridian IT, these enhancements utilise deep learning models to augment OCB’s proprietary DNA ploidy (a measure of the DNA content within tumor cells) and stroma content (non-malignant cells that can provide an extracellular matrix on which tumor cells can grow) assays, to classify resected tissue samples. The company combines these biomarkers to stratify patients into low, intermediate and high-risk groups of colorectal cancer recurrence, enabling better clinical decision-making.


Designed for image classification, IBM PowerAI Vision includes an intuitive toolset and the most popular deep learning frameworks. Using these features, Meridian IT was able to build models for OCB fast. The team took advantage of massive throughput capability offered by the accelerated IBM Power Systems servers equipped with NVIDIA with NVLink GPUs to expedite training of the models, bringing enhanced ColoProg to life sooner than expected.


Using IBM AI-powered image analysis, OCB has transformed its ability to build patient risk profiles.

Meridian IT have collaborated closely with us in an iterative process, challenging, and refining our ideas to ensure the best results.

David Browning

Chief Executive Officer

The Challenges

Cancer is the second leading cause of death world- wide. Tobacco use, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are key cancer risk factors, so undertaking lifestyle changes can prevent or mitigate the onset of the disease. Generally, the sooner cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcomes. As a result, identifying genetic predisposition to cancer or early signs of the disease is a priority in oncology research.


Oxford Cancer Biomarkers (OCB) was established in 2012 to discover and develop biomarkers (a quantifiable biological parameter that provides insight into a patient’s clinical state) to advance personalised medicine within oncology, focusing on colorectal cancer and its treatments.


OCB turned its attention to chemotherapy toxicity. A common treatment process for cancer patients is surgery to remove the tumor, followed by cycles of chemotherapy to ensure all cancerous cells are destroyed. 30 percent of colorectal cancer patients are identified with stage II tumors. Of these, only about 33 percent actually need chemotherapy. Research shows that around a third of these patients have a low risk of recurrence and do not need chemotherapy. Just over half will require standard monotherapy and the rest are high risk requiring combination chemotherapy. However, clinicians were unable to accurately identify individual needs


Treatment protocols vary by country, but some treat all patients in a belt-and-braces approach that increases risk of toxicity whilst others select without robust scientific backup. OCB wanted to provide the ability to target precision medicine for the individual.

However, between 20 and 30 percent of cancer patients experience severe side effects when treated with the most frequently used chemotherapy drug: 5FU (or capecitabine).


Furthermore, approximately 1 percent of patients are at high risk of life-threatening toxicities from the drug.


OCB’s ColoProg can help clinicians identify individual patient risk, leading to a more personal chemotherapy approach.

Case Study