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RCSEd Publishes Research Report

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09 Sep 2016

Research Report at a glance:

 27 publications have resulted from research projects funded by RCSEd

15 presentations have resulted from research projects funded by RCSEd

Research has been published in the most renowned journals in the world: Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA, and The Lancet

£1,042,860 is the total amount of funding from the RCSEd represented in the Report

13 international collaborations have been set up

Further funding has been secured from 4 new bodies

5 prizes at international conferences have been won

Each year, the College invites applications for research Fellowships, grants and bursaries. These range in scope and scale from three-year, full-time research posts jointly supported by the College and the Medical Research Council to eight-week vacation ‘research tasters’ for medical students. All carry an obligation for reports to be submitted to the College at the end of the award period and sometimes at intermediate points as well. A survey of these reports reveals a fascinating picture of industry and achievement in an exceptionally wide field of endeavour.

Some of the awards are funded through endowments that specify the area of study, and cancer figures prominently among these. In recent years, there has been a clear trend towards investigation of the molecular basis of malignancy. Substantial work has been done, for example, on the detection of circulating tumour cells and DNA as sensitive diagnostic tools; the fundamental processes of evolution from in situ pre-cancer through to metastasis; the actual and potential anti-cancer roles of the immune system; and mechanisms of cancer cachexia.

Beyond the cancer field, infection in all its aspects has attracted its due share of attention and it is instructive to note that, long before the danger of growing antibiotic resistance became an issue of widespread public concern, research funded by the College was examining alternative approaches to infection control. These studies included the role of biofilms on ‘clean’ surfaces – for example, on surgical instruments and on implanted prostheses – and how these might be eliminated or overcome.

New alternatives to conventional chemotherapy (use of antibacterial phage; identification of specific bacterial toxins and of naturally occurring mediators of resistance to infection) have also received support. Lister would undoubtedly have approved.

A third recurring area of research that has received a substantial level of support is organ transplantation. Topics have included experimental development of stem cell-derived mini-organs as potential autologous implants; evaluation of methods of donor-organ handling and preservation to increase the quality and yield of transplantable kidneys, livers and pancreases; and detailed investigation of factors that determine the outcome of organ transplantation in the immediate, short and long terms.

While most awards continue to be made to practising surgeons, almost all the reports illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of surgical research. Our award holders invariably express their gratitude to the scientists with whom they have collaborated on their projects, but it is clear that the surgeon brings an invaluable clinical perspective to the team and that this is recognised by their collaborators. Whether they return to full-time surgical practice or follow a specifically academic path (some have gone on to careers as ‘clinician scientists’), almost without exception award holders have gained enormously from the experience of being directly involved in research. The College is proud of the contribution it has made (and is still making) to the advance of clinical practice through research.

Michael Steel, Member of the RCSEd Research Board

Read the 2014-2016 Research Report

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