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We have made the difficult decision to close The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity offices in both the Chelsea and Sutton hospitals due to COVID-19. Our charity team will be working remotely and can be contacted via email - [email protected]. Post sent to the office will be checked once a week.

Naureen Starling in the ward

Dr Naureen Starling speaks about cancer treatment

Based in The Royal Marsden’s Gastrointestinal (GI) Unit, Dr Naureen Starling specialises in the treatment of patients with GI cancers.

This sort of research and the knowledge it provides will help us to develop new treatments and personalise treatment further for our patients.

Dr Naureen Starling

What services can you and The Royal Marsden offer patients?

The Royal Marsden has an internationally renowned GI Unit, which I am part of, and my area of expertise is in systemic therapies including innovative therapies, used within clinical trials to treat my patients and help them to live well during and beyond cancer.

What developments are taking place in the treatment of GI cancers?

Some GI cancers can be particularly challenging to treat, but there has been a definite move to personalise treatments to the individual and their tumour where possible while exploiting new technologies. The GI Unit is at the leading edge in terms of clinical research. This means that there is a culture of innovation, and we aim to rapidly translate new treatment options and technological advances into the clinic for the benefit of our patients.

Increasingly in some GI cancers, we are looking at how we can harness the body’s own immune system using immunotherapy. This is evolving research for what is currently just a small group of patients. However, considerable clinical research is being done in this area and it could lead to more durable treatments for patients and better outcomes.

During your career, what have been the biggest changes in treatment for patients with GI cancers?

For some of the GI cancers I treat, patient outcomes can be poor, but in the past decade there have been some significant breakthroughs. For example, there has been the introduction of targeted treatments for molecular drivers of some gut cancers, including using herceptin in gastric cancer and cetuximab in colorectal cancer. These have led to better outcomes for these patients.

It is an exciting time in the clinical and translational field of GI cancers as we start to learn more about the complexity of the different types of gut cancers. For instance, gastric cancer is not just one disease but probably several that might require treatment in different ways. The same applies to pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

There are exciting national and international research efforts in these areas, many of which we are part of or leading. This sort of research and the knowledge it provides will help us to develop new treatments and personalise treatment further for our patients.

Your support means researchers like Naureen can continue to find better treatments for cancers.