Congratulations to Professor Finlay Macrae AO who, on 4 February, celebrates 20 years as head of the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) Department of Colorectal Medicine and Genetics.

Under his leadership, Prof Macrae has worked tirelessly to secure funding through the Royal Melbourne Hospital Foundation for the Department’s various research projects, to advance treatment and care for those with or at risk of bowel cancer.

The international CAPP studies in particular, has been pivotal in showing that aspirin provides protection against colorectal cancer.

Together with other studies, the CAPP trials provided the evidence that lead to the 2017 NHMRC recommendation that all Australians between the ages of 50 and 70 consider taking a dosage of aspirin (100 to 300mg) as a preventative measure against the cancer.

The Department is also investigating specific nutrition interventions as ways to help reduce the risk of bowel cancer. The AusFAP trial, funded in part by The RMH Foundation, has tested in a randomised controlled trial whether a new starch developed by the CSIRO can prevent bowel polyps developing among patients with a rare familial bowel cancer syndrome.

Another Department of Colorectal Medicine research project funded by the RMH Foundation looks further afield to France, and looks at whether their red wine consumption is responsible for the country’s lower incidence of bowel cancer. The trial looks at Resveratrol, a natural compound found in cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and merlot grapes. The compound is thought to limit the spread of cancer cells and trigger the process of cancer cell death. Prof Macrae and the team have completed first in human trials evaluating if this hypothesis is correct.

In addition to research projects, Prof Macrae and his Department manage and curate the international database of DNA variants responsible for Lynch Syndrome, which has evolved into a strong collaboration with the US ClinGen programs housed at the National Institutes of Health.

Multiple students have assisted in this work, with some of them locating overseas to support the work. This theme was built on the earlier ambitious Melbourne-based Human Variome Project, which aims to document and share variations in genes around the world - in an attempt to improve treatment and care for all.

The Department is also involved in clinical work, diagnosing bowel cancer but also conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Prof Macrae works closely with RMH Head of Inflammatory Bowel Disease Dr Britt Christensen.

Professor Macrae’s 20 years as head of the Department is a touchstone on his impressive career with the RMH. Professor Macrae started at the Hospital in 1978 as a Registrar in the Department of Gastroenterology and has been Director of the RMH Bowel Cancer Surveillance Service for over 30 years. During his tenure as Director he has been awarded the peak capstone award of the World Gastroenterological Organization, and Fellowships of the Royal College of Physicians (London) and American Gastroenterological Association. Last year, he was awarded the Gastroenterological Society of Australia’s Distinguished Research Prize, a recognition by his peers.

The RMH congratulates Professor Macrae on this achievement.

Mobile Stroke Unit with Ambulance Victoria paramedic and the RMH Stroke team
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