Surgeons in Yorkshire are going to be taught a technique which could save the lives of 3,000 colon cancer patients every year.
Researchers at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, part of the University of Leeds' School of Medicine, have spent the past 15 years studying photographic records of bowel cancer tumours removed in the city and around the world in order to compare different types of surgery and how they relate to curing bowel cancer patients.
Initial research into tumours located in the rectum, undertaken by Professor Phil Quirke, led to two training programmes for rectal cancer surgery involving 200 English NHS hospitals. Following further research into tumours located in the colon by Dr Nick West and Professor Quirke, the team will now trial a new training programme in Yorkshire - the first of its kind in the county. If the course, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, is successful, it could be rolled out across the UK.
There are 25,000 cases of colon cancer diagnosed in the country each year, and while survival rates for both colon and rectal cancer are slowly improving, colon cancer now has the worst prognosis and the programme aims to change this. New studies by Dr Eva Morris, also from the University of Leeds, have shown a wide variation not only in cure rates but also in death rates after surgery, and her findings will be presented during the two-day course.
The course will include a presentation by Professor Werner Hohenberger, who is based in Erlangen, Germany, where survival rates are 20% higher than in the UK. Following studies on surgical specimens from Leeds, Dr West compared them to samples from Erlangen, Japan and Denmark and discovered major differences between surgeons and centres.
A training programme based on Hohenberger's technique was recently implemented in Denmark, which has the highest mortality rate for the disease in Western Europe. Based on Dr West's findings, the Danish health authorities carried out a complete retraining of all teams involved in bowel cancer treatment, and although it will be another three years before the impact on five year survival rates is known, the programme proved that clinical practice could be altered through training.
Surgeons from Hillerod Hospital in Denmark and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, who have adopted the technique, will also present as part of the course.