International recognition for ground-breaking Christchurch surgeon

CONGRATULATING: Christchurch bowel cancer surgeon Frank Frizelle (right) after receiving his honorary fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Dublin professor Paul Burke researched and presented a citation on Mr Frizelle, something all award recipients received.

A St Albans-based bowel cancer surgeon and researcher has received international recognition from one of the world’s largest surgical colleges in Ireland.

Last month, Frank Frizelle was awarded one of the highest honours, an honourary fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

It recognises his global leadership in surgery and comes on the back of ground-breaking research from Prof Frizelle and his Otago University and Canterbury District Health Board research teams, who recently identified a toxic bug they believe may cause bowel cancer.

The team found a toxic form of a bacteria called enterotoxic bacteroides fragilis in the gut of almost 80 per cent of people with a pre-cancerous lesion – a precursor to the disease, which is one of the leading causes of cancer death in New Zealand, said Prof Frizelle.

It could lead to a life-saving vaccine or early detection test for the disease.

Prof Frizelle said he was “delighted and privileged” to be recognised with the award which came “out of the blue.”

“It’s quite a big deal. The Irish college doesn’t offer this to many people so it’s quite special,” he said.

It was especially exciting for his mother, Nanci, who has Irish heritage. She was too frail to travel but was able to watch her son receive the award through a live-stream video.

Prof Frizelle said bowel cancer has gone under the radar for a long time because people are often embarrassed to talk about it.

His team were also the first to show differences in the gut microbiome linked to different types of bowel cancer.

The discovery could mean in future clinicians can give patients the treatments, surgery or medications shown to work best for particular types of cancer.

Prof Frizelle is a surgeon at Christchurch Colorectal in St Albans, editor in chief of The New Zealand Medical Journal and head of university department of surgery at Otago University.