Beating bowel cancer together

Using stem cells to reduce complications after bowel cancer surgery

Researcher: Joshua Burke

Location: University of Leeds

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

Bowel Cancer UK/RCS Research Fellow, Mr Joshua Burke, is looking at ways to reduce a serious complication of bowel cancer surgery. He hopes a special type of stem cell will help improve healing after surgery and reduce the chance of a complication known as ‘anastomotic leak’.

The challenge

Anastomotic leak is a serious complication that can sometimes happen after bowel cancer surgery. This is when the contents of the bowel leaks through the part of the bowel that was rejoined during surgery. This type of complication can happen in up to 15% of patients who have this type of surgery and can have devastating long term consequences.

The science behind the project

Mr Burke’s research will investigate whether using a special type of stem cell (called adipose derived regenerative cells (ADRC)), known to help wound healing, could help prevent anastomotic leaks after bowel surgery.   

The stem cells can be taken from the abdomen (tummy) during surgery and are applied to the join in the bowel using a special type of gel.  Mr Burke will be using mice to find out more about whether this combination of stem cells and gel are safe to use and how well they can help to promote healing.  


What difference will this project make?

This research addresses a major surgical complication. Finding ways to reduce anastomotic leaks could significantly reduce long term side effects for patients following surgery, reduce costs and ultimately help save lives.

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