This week New Zealand is hosting, for the first time ever, a gathering of world experts in the field of familial
gastrointestinal cancers, most commonly hereditary bowel cancer.
Top researchers from the UK, USA, Asia, and Australasia will meet from Wednesday (today) until Saturday March 23rd for the 8th International Society for Gastrointestinal
Hereditary Tumours (inSiGHT) Scientific Meeting at the SkyCity Auckland Convention Centre to share results from the latest international trials highlighting promising new discoveries and treatments for patients
with hereditary bowel cancer. The conference is being co-hosted by the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology.
Chair of inSiGHT, New Zealand gastroenterologist Associate Professor Susan Parry, says it’s a major advance for New
Zealand to host this prestigious conference, which will allow clinicians, researchers and the public the chance to hear
the very latest cutting-edge evidence and research.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have the world’s leading experts on familial bowel cancer gathered together here in New
Zealand” says Associate Professor Parry. “Individuals with familial bowel cancer have a much higher chance than the
average person in developing bowel cancer because of an inherited genetic abnormality. However then may not be aware of
this and it’s often not diagnosed early enough. About 5% of all bowel cancers are caused by familial bowel cancer
syndromes and it’s important for everyone to check their family history and to discuss this with their doctor if a
number of family members have been affected. For each individual diagnosed with these syndromes, most commonly Lynch
syndrome, there are between twenty and over one hundred other related persons who may also be affected and who would
benefit from that one diagnosis. This conference will hopefully save lives”.
Every year more than 3100 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer. More than 1200 lose their lives to the disease
annually. Of those 3100 patients, 30% may report a family history of the disease and in around 150 people (5%) a
hereditary bowel syndrome will be the reason behind their cancer.
Specialised services such as the New Zealand Familial Gastrointestinal Service (NZFGICS), a multi-disciplinary, Ministry
of Health-funded service (established in 2009) play an important role in assessing patients and families who may be at
increased risk of familial bowel cancer because of their family history. The NZFGICS receives around 1700 referrals each
year of which 1215 families are identified as requiring follow-up.
“It’s vital that we do all we can to help identify patients with this hereditary form of bowel cancer and have them
referred for timely assessment” says Parry. “We want New Zealanders to know that the New Zealand Familial
Gastrointestinal Service is working hard to deliver the best care and information available for patients and their
whanāu. This conference will help raise awareness and education among health professionals and also assist our Service
in delivering the very best treatment and information to patients here”.
Among the keynote speakers is world-renowned UK geneticist Professor Sir John Burn who led the landmark international
study which discovered that aspirin lowers the risk of patients developing a familial form of bowel cancer called Lynch
Syndrome (an inherited condition considered to affect 1 in 200-300 people which is diagnosed at a young age and
increases the risk of colorectal and other cancers).
“New Zealand is privileged to have such a well-known researcher in this field willing to come here to further advocate,
increase awareness of and update health professionals on the latest developments” says Parry.
Among the thirty-odd other leading researchers presenting at the conference is Professor Evelien Dekker from the
Netherlands, who specialises in screening for bowel cancer and advocates for high quality colonoscopy and polyp removal
in surveillance of patients with familial bowel cancer.
While the sessions held tomorrow, Friday and Saturday are targeted at clinicians, academic and health experts, a special
public evening entitled ‘Familial Bowel Cancer Syndromes – an Update and International Perspective’ is being held
tonight for families and members of the public affected by familial bowel cancer.