An Evolutionary Algorithm to Personalize Stool-Based Colorectal Cancer Screening

Luuk A. van Duuren*, Jonathan Ozik, Remy Spliet, Nicholson T. Collier, Iris Lansdorp-Vogelaar, Reinier G.S. Meester

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) is an established method for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. Measured FIT-concentrations are associated with both present and future risk of CRC, and may be used for personalized screening. However, evaluation of personalized screening is computationally challenging. In this study, a broadly applicable algorithm is presented to efficiently optimize personalized screening policies that prescribe screening intervals and FIT-cutoffs, based on age and FIT-history. Methods: We present a mathematical framework for personalized screening policies and a bi-objective evolutionary algorithm that identifies policies with minimal costs and maximal health benefits. The algorithm is combined with an established microsimulation model (MISCAN-Colon), to accurately estimate the costs and benefits of generated policies, without restrictive Markov assumptions. The performance of the algorithm is demonstrated in three experiments. Results: In Experiment 1, a relatively small benchmark problem, the optimal policies were known. The algorithm approached the maximum feasible benefits with a relative difference of 0.007%. Experiment 2 optimized both intervals and cutoffs, Experiment 3 optimized cutoffs only. Optimal policies in both experiments are unknown. Compared to policies recently evaluated for the USPSTF, personalized screening increased health benefits up to 14 and 4.3%, for Experiments 2 and 3, respectively, without adding costs. Generated policies have several features concordant with current screening recommendations. Discussion: The method presented in this paper is flexible and capable of optimizing personalized screening policies evaluated with computationally-intensive but established simulation models. It can be used to inform screening policies for CRC or other diseases. For CRC, more debate is needed on what features a policy needs to exhibit to make it suitable for implementation in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number718276
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2022

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Copyright © 2022 van Duuren, Ozik, Spliet, Collier, Lansdorp-Vogelaar and Meester.


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