I was appointed as a Colorectal Surgeon at Oxford University Hospitals NHS FT in 2000 and Associate Professor in Colorectal Surgery in NDS in 2018. I have a wide experience of emergency, general and colorectal surgery, particularly the management of rectal cancer and pelvic floor conditions. I had a leading role in expanding the use of minimally invasive surgery to the UK as a steering and education committee member of LAPCO, the UK national training programme in laparoscopic colorectal surgery. My roles in LOREC, the national programme for low rectal cancer and SPECC, the national programme for managing early colorectal cancer have contributed to improved quality and decision-making for colorectal cancer MDT’s.
I have served on NICE Interventional Procedures Advisory Committee (3 years) during which around 100 procedures were considered, including a formal review of all pelvic mesh procedures. I lead the National Institute of Health, Health Informatics Collaborative (HIC), Colorectal Cancer Theme. I have held posts in the Association of Coloproctology and Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. I am an External Examiner at University College Dublin, Medical School.
I have been the Divisional Director of Surgery, Women’s, and Oncology services in OUH FT since 2020, and was previously Divisional Medical Director from 2015. The Division comprises six directorates, with 3000 staff, 300 consultants and a budget of around £290 million. I work with a tremendous team in what is one of the most challenging and rewarding positions that I have held.
BSc, MB ChB, MD, FRCSEd
Associate Professor of Colorectal Surgery
- Consultant Colorectal Surgeon, OUH FT
- Divisional Director of Surgery, Women’s, and Oncology, OUH FT
- Clinical Lead, Colorectal Cancer Theme, NIHR Health Informatics Collaborative
My first formal research interest was in colorectal cancer genetics, mapping a putative tumour suppressor gene, leading to an MD in 1996 in Edinburgh. This research was awarded the Patey Prize of the Surgical Research Society. These were exciting early days of understanding the fundamentals of colorectal cancer development and predisposition, working with Andrew Wyllie and Malcolm Dunlop. At that time, the aspiration was to see translation from basic research into clinical practice, which has become a reality in the last few years. It is from this period of research that my ongoing interest in colorectal surgery and specifically colorectal cancer developed.
Working to optimise our management of colorectal cancer has been important to me, leading to my roles in national programmes for minimally invasive surgery and improving assessment and decision making in colorectal cancer MDT’s. In recent years I have supervised/co-supervised four DPhil students covering areas including carcinogenesis and cancer biology, organ preservation in rectal cancer treatment and understanding unwarranted variation in colorectal cancer management.
My work in pelvic floor conditions has been driven by a need to improve our understanding of the complex interaction between function and anatomy in the pelvis as a consequence of pregnancy and childbirth, connective tissue disorders and the interplay with chronic pain and psychological aspects. We have recently published our patient’s perceptions of the long-term outcomes from laparoscopic ventral mesh rectopexy which have been invaluable in providing effective counselling for this group of patients.
I have been fortunate to collaborate with many researchers over the years, in Oxford, the UK and internationally, and I have been PI for 10 trials and CI for three studies.
The future direction of my research interests in organ preservation in rectal cancer will be informed by forthcoming results of a European trial, TESAR, on which I was co-applicant with Dutch colleague Jurriaan Tuynman, funded through the Dutch Cancer Society. This will guide management of early rectal cancer in considering the options of radical surgery versus local excision with adjuvant therapy. Depending on these results we hope to develop a trial comparing adjuvant radiotherapy after local excision of rectal cancer with surveillance alone, with opportunities for a major translational component to this work. The aim is to tailor our treatment of rectal cancer such that effective cure is provided with minimal impact on quality of life.
I have over 200 publications (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Chris-Cunningham-4) and lecture in the UK and internationally in my areas of expertise. In the last two years I have published and presented at international conferences on outcomes and complications of laparoscopic ventral mesh rectopexy, and multi-modality approaches to organ preservation in rectal cancer.
Comparison of proactive and conventional treatment of anastomotic leakage in rectal cancer surgery: a multicentre retrospective cohort series.
Talboom K. et al, (2023), Tech Coloproctol, 27, 1099 - 1108
Local Excision for Early Rectal Cancer.
Cunningham C., (2023), Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol), 35, 82 - 86
Pelvic pain is a common prolapse symptom and improvement after ventral mesh rectopexy is more frequent than deterioration or de novo pain.
Singh S. et al, (2023), Colorectal Dis, 25, 118 - 127
Quality-of-life outcomes in older patients with early-stage rectal cancer receiving organ-preserving treatment with hypofractionated short-course radiotherapy followed by transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TREC): non-randomised registry of patients unsuitable for total mesorectal excision.
Gilbert A. et al, (2022), Lancet Healthy Longev, 3, e825 - e838
Use of fluorescence imaging and indocyanine green during colorectal surgery: Results of an intercontinental Delphi survey.
Wexner S. et al, (2022), Surgery, 172, S38 - S45