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UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science

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The International Symposium on the Future of Rectal Cancer Surgery

31 January 2017

University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospital (UCLH) have established well-deserved reputations for excellence in academia and clinical skill. On December 9th 2016, following the culmination of over nearly 12 months’ preparation and industry funding of more than £100,000, co-Chairs Manish Chand and Richard Cohen (Consultant Colorectal Surgeons and Honorary Senior Lecturers) hosted a unique, innovative and ground-breaking event showcasing these attributes during The International Symposium on the Future of Rectal Cancer Surgery. 

Rectal cancer is arguably the most contentious and challenging disease for Colorectal Surgeons and there remain many difficult questions when it comes to patient outcomes. In January 2016, an editorial article co-authored by Manish Chand in the journal Colorectal Disease (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/codi.13361/abstract) prompted an international collaborative group to stage a one-day interactive symposium to try and better understand optimal treatment strategies for patients with rectal cancer.

The novel format of a professional television-style broadcast brought together a record number of eminent thought-leaders in rectal cancer from all around the globe. They acted as presenters, discussants and panelists to debate the current state of rectal cancer surgery. It was broadcast live on the internet via the freely available AIS Channel platform (www.aischannel.com). The event attracted a record number of online audience and allowed direct interaction with delegates in over 100 countries. This included formal and informal discussions, expert presentations and the world’s first 4-way live operating session where four separate surgical teams operated simultaneously from the theatre complex at UCH. Delegates were guided through an immersive surgical experience through the four operating theatres using state-of-the-art camera technology, virtual reality displays and telestration devices. This was narrated with expert commentary as well as allowing online delegates to directly question the moderators from anywhere in the world. Adding a further twist, pathologists directly examined the specimens in theatre to immediately compare the results of the different surgical approaches. 

This ambitious event has highlighted both the organisational ability of the Division of Surgery & Interventional Science and the hard work and effort to stage such a prestigious symposium. This was the first time such a concentration of rectal cancer expertise participated in a single symposium and we are very proud. Several renowned academic and clinical institutions are keen to develop strategic partnerships through the success of the event, which we believe is particularly important in advancing medical education. We hope this is the first of many such events and that it will further enhance the reputation of UCL and UCLH.