Help us to stop bowel cancer

Improving surgery for rectal cancer

Researcher: Miss Marta Penna

Location: Imperial College London and Oxford University Hospital

Funding: Bowel Cancer UK/Royal College of Surgeons of England jointly-funded fellowship

Surgery offers the best chance of cure for patients with rectal cancer. Our first Bowel Cancer UK/RCS Research Fellow, Marta Penna, hopes to improve training for surgeons who use a pioneering new technique for rectal cancer known as transanal total mesorectal excision (TaTME).

The challenge

Rectal surgery can be very challenging, especially when the cancer is within the lower part of the rectum.  Certain elements can make the surgery even more complex, such as obesity, previous abdominal surgery and having a small pelvis.  The surgeon needs to operate down a deep narrow hole where the view is limited, making accurate surgery more difficult. TaTME was developed to help surgeons operate on these more complex rectal cancers and overcome these barriers. It means surgery can be performed from both the top (abdominally) and the bottom (transanally), allowing for more accurate surgery, fewer complications and better quality of life for patients.

The science behind the project

In order to reduce chance of error and complication, Miss Penna is analysing videos and reports of around 200 TaTME procedures. Her research aims to both identify common errors, as well as useful technical tips, and develop a training tool with guidance for surgeons learning the technique in the future.

What difference will this project make?

Miss Penna’s work is key to improving surgical performance. Whilst this new surgical technique has already shown promising results, we need to understand the technique in more detail and find ways of avoiding errors during surgery to further improve outcomes for patients. Increasing surgical accuracy means less chance of complications, which ultimately means patients are likely to live longer with less risk of the cancer returning, and a better quality of life with good bowel, urinary and sexual function longer term.

We are determined to save lives from bowel cancer but we can’t do this without you. Support vital research and lifesaving work to stop bowel cancer.
We are determined to save lives from bowel cancer but we can’t do this without you. Support vital research and lifesaving work to stop bowel cancer.