Motivated by the impact that colorectal cancer has had on several generations of their family, North Shore residents Greg and Kelly Wolfe have set out to improve the odds for other local families dealing with Canada’s third most common form of cancer.
The couple has ushered in a new era of endoscopy screening technology to all four suites in the Coastal Community of Care Endoscopy Program at Lions Gate Hospital (LGH) and Squamish General Hospital (SGH).
Their $360,000 donation will deliver Canada’s first-ever use of leading-edge artificial intelligence technology to help physicians detect subtle, potentially cancerous growths during routine colonoscopy screening.
“This kind of detection technology is changing the landscape of our field,” says LGH Gastroenterology Division Head Dr. Jin Ho. “By improving and increasing polyp detection rates, we can effectively reduce the incidence of colon cancer and will ultimately save lives.”
Vancouver Coastal Health physician Dr. Richard Lewis, who played a key role in advocating for the testing and purchase of the detection equipment has worked with the device on an ongoing basis, sees the difference in detection it offers.
“Based on our evaluation, the device appears to be very sensitive to subtle polyps which may be pre-malignant,” explains Richard. “Previous studies using the device have also suggested there is an increased rate of detection of small and subtle polyps, with the detection rate of these pre-cancerous polyps correlating with the subsequent risk for developing colon cancer.”
The Wolfes are the enthusiastic donors whose lives have been touched by colorectal cancer firsthand, with Kelly being the most recent family member to have battled it.
The couple hope the new devices will make state-of-art colon cancer detection and diagnosis available to everyone in their community and that their donation might inspire others in the BC technology sector to support technology adoption in other areas of medical care.
After a career as an executive in the enterprise software industry, Greg began researching for advanced technologies in early cancer detection after Kelly was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Connecting with former colleagues, he learned about the Medtronic GI Genius device and began advocating with Dr. Lewis and Dr. Ho as well as Medtronic to generously fund an evaluation of the technology.
“I’d like to challenge my colleagues from high-tech to first, make sure you get a colonoscopy and then, get involved in making a difference in how we all support our health care professionals, whether it’s through a donation of funds or helping address significant technology needs,” says Greg.
The Wolfes were thrilled to be able to be contribute to the community, recognizing the role that Dr. Lewis, who initially treated Kelly for colorectal cancer, and LGH Foundation played in bringing the interested parties together.
“Without the research and support of Richard and the guidance of LGH Foundation, we wouldn’t have been able to deliver this additional level of detection for our community,” says Kelly.
LGH Foundation President & CEO Judy Savage is clear on the difference that the Wolfe’s contribution will have on both patient care and staff morale in the endoscopy department.
“It’s only through donations like this, and Kelly’s and Greg’s generosity, that we’re able to fund this type of game-changing care.” says Judy. “We all appreciate their willingness to support our health care teams here at LGH with the latest tools after being inspired by the care they received here.”
There will be four of the devices – known as a Medtronic GI Genius–– offering patients from across the region access to this endoscopy technology.
The device is about the size of a DVD player and is compatible with any colonoscope video system. Plugging into the existing camera and monitor, the device works in real time to highlight regions of the colon suspected to have visual characteristics consistent with different types of mucosal abnormalities during a typical procedure such as a colonoscopy.
Acting as a support tool for the physician conducting the procedures, the device integrates concepts such as Big Data, Cloud, and AI technologies inter to identify and mark abnormalities consistent with colorectal polyps, including small flat polyps.
Through this process, the precision of the device helps increase the adenoma detection rate (ADR) for the physician, with less reliance on the human eye, which studies show reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.