University honours cancer surgery researcher

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A LEEDS University postgraduate whose research could help to save the lives of thousands of cancer patients has been honoured by the institution.

Dr Nick West from the university’s Faculty of Medicine and Health has been named as its Postgraduate Researcher of the Year.

His work investigated the importance of surgical technique in patients undergoing bowel cancer surgery by assessing the quality and amount of material removed during the operation and its relationship to patient survival.

Dr West was able to show that improved surgical technique could increase the survival rate. “Good surgery” was identified as more meticulous and involved removing more normal material around the cancer. This accounted for around one third of bowel cancer operations undertaken in Leeds.

These good operations resulted in 15 per cent more patients surviving for at least five years when compared to the poorer operations. This research suggests that surgical training programmes should improve the quality of bowel cancer surgery and therefore patient survival.

A move towards better bowel cancer surgery could improve the number of patients surviving for at least five years after their operation from 62 per cent to 89 per cent according to Dr West. This would mean 7,000 lives could potentially be saved every year in the United Kingdom alone in 2012.

The work by Dr West, under Dr Phil Quirke at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, has led to research with world leading bowel cancer centres in order to identify the most effective surgical techniques.

Yorkshire Cancer Research has agreed to fund a training programme for the Yorkshire region in July 2012.

Dr West has presented his work at national and international meetings and was awarded the Royal College of Pathologists histopathology research medal and the British Oncological Association young investigator of the year award in 2010.

His latest honour from Leeds aims to celebrate the quality and impact of the work of postgraduate researchers across the university with each faculty putting forward a nominee.

He said: “It is a great honour to receive this award, particularly in light of the very high standard of competitors. Bowel cancer is a common disease and over the last few years we have developed a strong international collaborative research group led by Leeds.”