Written by Professor John McLaughlin, Theme Lead for Gastrointestinal
I've been theme lead for about 12 months and it's been great to see the increasing number of people who are interested in research across Greater Manchester and in the wider North West. We’ve seen improvements in both the number of sites and investigators who are taking part.
As a clinical discipline, Gastrointestinal (GI) works across a number of hospital areas and this is reflected in the research we do. This is often in collaboration with other disciplines. For instance, some of our studies are co-adopted onto the NIHR portfolio with the Cancer, Primary Care or Genetics themes. One of the main studies we’re recruiting to is looking at the genetics of inflammatory bowel disease. This study is being run by Dr Bill Newman, GM CLRN's Genetics Theme Lead, but involves a lot of GI work to identify and recruit particpants, so it's co-adopted. We’ve also recruited over 70 patients across seven sites to the BOSS study which is a long-term, NIHR-funded study looking at the value of endoscopic surveillance in Barrett’s oesophagus patients. This is a large part of the endoscopist’s workload, yet the evidence that Barrett’s surveillance is useful is surprisingly limited.
Historically, GI research in Greater Manchester has been carried out in the large teaching hospitals. However, I'm glad to report that we’ve seen an uptake in research at a District General Hospital (DGH) level. A real exemplar of this is Dr Yeng Ang who is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at Wigan Royal Albert Edward Infirmary. Dr Ang has a number of studies up-and-running and we're working with him on future plans and support from the CLRN.
I'm very pleased to say that we’ve seen a number of new GI consultant appointments in the region and these staff are keen to be carrying out research. Many of these consultants trained in the North West and have recently done research as part of their PhDs.
On the commercial side of things, there aren’t very many Pharma studies out there at the moment in Gastroenterology, and across the theme we’re taking part in nearly all those on offer. We are working with companies to look at studies around new treatments for inflammatory bowel disease and complications of diabetes affecting the gut, as well as looking at how anti-TNF drugs compare against other treatments. We’re also looking at how we overlap with the nutritional side of gastroenterology. For example, iron deficiency can be a major issue with some GI patients and we're interested in developing this side of our research.
Another area of interest is in diagnostics such as those used in GI Physiology departments and nuclear medicine. Gastroenterologists are usually busy endoscopists, so use of such devices may also prove fruitful avenues to explore. We also have several academic studies underway looking at physiological aspects of the gut-brain axis with Research Council funding.
In terms of NIHR and GI in Manchester we've been successful in what I think is the NIHR's only programme grant for GI in the UK. Led by Prof David Thompson and Prof Sarah O’Brien it's co-adopted with the Primary Care Research Network and is evaluating better patient orientated management of chronic gastroenterology disorders.
One of Manchester's very active research nurses - Karen Kemp - has also secured an NIHR PhD fellowship to look at qualitative research from the experiences of both patients and clinicians with inflammatory bowel disease. Another IBD Grant was secured by Dr Simon Campbell at Central Manchester with Karen from the National Association of Crohn’s and Colitis: both will be on our portfolio. And we also have a research fellow, Caroline Henson, who has recently been awarded a Macmillan grant to look at post-radiotherapy gastrointestinal dysfunction.
While we may be one of the smaller themes within in Greater Manchester, we're very much involved with collaboration to further increase research that has real benefits to patients so if you're interested in GI research then please get in touch.