Gastrointestinal Unit

The Gastrointestinal (GI) Unit specialises in the treatment and care of all cancers arising within the GI tract, including the associated organs of the liver, biliary system, pancreas and neuroendocrine system

Professor David Cunnigham

A robust multidisciplinary approach is undertaken for each patient, ensuring that expertise from each clinical and diagnostic discipline is applied for each patient upon referral to the Unit.

Multidisciplinary evidence-based diagnostic and treatment pathways are used to ensure that optimal outcomes are obtained for individual patients. Continuity of care for each patient is enhanced by the allocation of an experienced clinical nurse specialist at the first consultation. This is particularly important as many patients receive different types of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

Colorectal surgery

We offer a full range of surgical techniques and technical innovations, not only in surgery but also in diagnosis and patient care.

Clinical research

Clinical research is a vital component of the Unit. The GI Unit has led, or participated in, several national and international trials which have defined the role of new drugs and improved the standards of cancer treatment in several areas. Much of this work is in close collaboration with the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI).

For example, a landmark national study, led by Professor Cunningham and Mr Allum, demonstrated improved survival for patients with operable gastric cancer if they were given chemotherapy before and after their operation.

Another trial led by Professor Cunningham investigated cetuximab, a new monoclonal antibody which targets a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is important for the growth of colorectal cancer cells.

This international trial demonstrated the ability of cetuximab to resensitise chemotherapy (irinotecan)-resistant advanced colorectal tumours to chemotherapy.

Current areas of research include preoperative chemotherapy and radiation therapy for rectal cancer, and preoperative chemotherapy for oesophageal cancer. We are also studying new drugs which target cancer-specific pathways in advanced colorectal, gastric and pancreatic cancer.

Clinical trials

The GI Unit firmly believes that research is essential in order to raise standards of cancer care, and to improve the prognosis of patients with GI cancers. Not all patients are suitable or willing to participate in a clinical trial, however our philosophy is to give patients the option of a research trial if one is available.

The research programme is run by a dedicated team of research fellows, nurses and data managers according to EU and international standards.

Features of the Unit

  • A multidisciplinary team of medical oncologists, clinical oncologists, upper and lower GI surgeons, gastroenterologists and specialist nurses
  • Utilisation of expert histopathology, radiology and nuclear medicine services, including MRI and PET/CT
  • State-of-the-art facilities for all investigations and treatments
  • Availability of clinical trials for promising new therapies
  • Close links with palliative care services
  • Designated South West London Cancer Network centre for upper gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery
  • Integrated colorectal surgery links across South West London


Head of Unit

Consultants (surgery)

Consultants (radiotherapy)

Consultants (medical oncology)

Consultants (gastroenterology)

Consultants (radiology)

Consultants (nuclear medicine)

Consultants (histopathology)

Consultants (endocrinology)

Service Manager

  • Jo Waller