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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The microsimulation analysis was supported by Grant U01-CA199335 and Grant U01-CA253913 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as part of the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The work was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, under contract (No. DE-AC02-06CH11357).

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


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