Recently, our research conducted within the Cabrini Monash University Department of Surgery, headed by A/Prof Paul McMurrick, was showcased at the 2019 Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Annual Scientific Congress (ASC), held in Bangkok, Thailand (6-10th May).

RACS ASC is the largest surgical meeting held in Australia and New Zealand and includes a diverse range of scientific programs, workshops, discussions, plenaries and masterclasses. 

Christine Gemma RACSlinked3

The RACS ASC program theme this year was “The Complete Surgeon: Backing The Future” and was aimed at helping to address many of the competing interests in the delivery of surgical care in our community. Prominent highlights of the Colorectal Surgery program included high profile local and international speakers delivering lectures and keynotes on Rectal Cancer and the ongoing debate, Colorectal Cancer and New Frontiers which included presentations on the microbiome and organoids as a human pre-clinical model for colorectal cancer, the Mark Killingback research paper prize session, Research Papers session and the E-poster session.

Dr Gemma Solon (Colorectal Fellow, Cabrini Monash University Department of Surgery) and I, were selected to present our research findings as podium presentations within the Research Papers session of the Colorectal Surgery program of this prestigious conference. Dr Solon presented on behalf of Ms Karen Oliva (Database Manager, Cabrini Monash University Department of Surgery) on the management of patients with adverse histopathological features post colonoscopic polypectomy. Their research highlights a two-fold increase in malignant lymph nodes when a polyp is located in the rectum. The research I presented on the Tissue Microarray study, showcased three emerging biomarkers which correlated with survival outcomes in patients with advanced colon cancer. The findings from this study highlight that high expression of all three biomarkers correlates with significantly worse four-year survival, in this cohort. In future, these findings may help to personalise treatment for patients with advanced colon cancer and ultimately improve patient outcomes. 

In addition, I presented on both the Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMS) and organoid studies in the E-poster presentation session of the Colorectal Surgery program. The PROMS study aims to elucidate the impact of surgical procedure on quality of life in colorectal cancer patients. Our findings highlight that colorectal cancer patients undergoing either an ultra-low anterior resection or an abdominoperineal resection demonstrated the highest degree of post-operative symptoms. As a result, PROMS may help identify and refer these patients for allied health services.

The organoid study, of which I presented on behalf of Dr Rebekah Engel (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cabrini Monash University Department of Surgery), highlights how patient-derived rectal organoids can be used to predict outcomes in rectal cancer patients. In future, rectal-derived organoids may act as a useful pre-clinical tool to predict treatment outcomes and to guide patients and clinicians on the suitability of adopting the watch and wait strategy. The opportunity to represent Cabrini at an international level through showcasing the excellent research that we are conducting within the Department of Surgery was an honour. The wide array of topics and speakers at RACS ASC has allowed me to enhance my knowledge in colorectal surgery and cutting-edge research while providing an opportunity to meet and network with experts in the field. All this would not be possible without travel support from the Cabrini Professional Development award and Let’s Beat Bowel Cancer, a non-for-profit Cabrini initiative, and research project support from the Margaret Walkom Trust. 


Written by Dr Christine Koulis
BSc(Hons), PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Cabrini Monash University Department of Surgery