Surgeon Bilal Alkhaffaf

Study focuses on gastric cancer surgery

Over a million cases of gastric cancer are diagnosed each year around the world and it’s a leading cause of cancer-related death.

Although survival rates have improved over recent decades, only around 15 per cent of patients in England live for more than 10 years after diagnosis.

That’s why it is crucial that there is further high quality research, firmly focused on finding the best treatments for patients.

Now, more than 1,000 patients, cancer specialist nurses and surgeons worldwide are contributing to an important study that aims to standardise the way outcomes are reported in research looking at surgical treatments for gastric cancer.

Mr Bilal Alkhaffaf, a Consultant Oesophago-Gastric Surgeon at Salford Royal and Honorary Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester, is the Chief Investigator for the GASTROS study funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

Mr Alkhaffaf explained: “Surgery to remove part or all of the stomach is the main treatment that can potentially cure this type of cancer. This can be done through open or minimally invasive (sometimes known as keyhole) surgery. But major operations like these can result in complications and have a big impact on patients’ quality of life.

“When it comes to understanding which surgical approaches are best for patients, we need to be able to compare the outcomes that have been reported from many different studies. Outcomes can be described as the effects or impacts of treatments. At present, however, different studies are reporting different sets of outcomes which making it difficult to decide which treatments are best.

“For instance, one study might report survival rates at three years after surgery and how much pain a patient has while they’re recovering, while another might report survival rates at five years and how long they have to stay in hospital after their operation. If we had an agreed set of outcomes that we knew were important to patients as well as healthcare professionals and researchers, we’d be able to make much better comparisons of treatments and techniques. That would be a crucial step towards improving outcomes for patients with gastric cancer.”

During the five-year study, Mr Alkhaffaf and his team are consulting surgeons, nurses and patients through interviews, surveys and meetings to decide what are the most relevant outcomes that surgical trials should report. This is called a Core Outcome Set. The GASTROS study will also identify the most appropriate tools (known as outcome measurement instruments) to measure these outcomes.

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