Monday 13 August 2018 11:57am
University of Otago, Christchurch bowel cancer researcher Professor Frank Frizelle has been awarded an honorary fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
The award is the highest honour bestowed by one of the world’s largest surgical colleges and recognises the recipient’s global leadership in a particular field of surgery. Professor Frizelle has been studying bowel cancer for almost three decades and trialling improved surgical approaches throughout that time.
The global recognition comes on the heels of some crucial research breakthroughs for Professor Frizelle, who is the Head of the University of Otago, Christchurch Department of Surgery, and his research team. They recently identified a toxic bug they believe may cause bowel cancer and could lead to a life-saving vaccine or early detection test for the too-often deadly disease. The researchers found a toxic form of a bacteria called enterotoxic Bacteroides fragilis in the gut of almost 80 per cent of people with a pre-cancerous lesion – a precursor to the disease.
"I’m really humbled to receive the Royal College of Surgeons award, and see it as recognition of the whole team’s work over a long period of time, both University of Otago researchers and my Canterbury DHB clinical colleagues."
In another research breakthrough, Professor Frizelle and his team were the first to show that differences in the gut microbiome were linked to different types of bowel cancer. The discovery hopefully will mean that in future clinicians can give patients the treatments, surgery or medications shown to work best in a particular types of cancer.
“I’m really humbled to receive the Royal College of Surgeons award, and see it as recognition of the whole team’s work over a long period of time, both University of Otago researchers and my Canterbury DHB clinical colleagues. We are all trying new approaches and to challenge convention wisdom to ultimately improve outcomes for patients,’’ he says.
“Bowel cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in New Zealand but has gone under the radar for a long time because people are often embarrassed to talk about it. This is slowly changing, and survival rates are improving thanks to growing awareness of the disease as well as medical and research improvements.”