Leader in her field brings the latest technology and techniques in endoscopy to Birmingham

05 July 2018

One of our most high profile researchers comes to University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) via Milan, Tokyo, Rome, London, Cambridge, Germany and Canada, and brings with her a vast international reputation, being at the very top of her field.

Professor Marietta Iacucci is an Honorary Consultant Gastroenterologist at UHB, as well as an Academic Lead in Gastroenterology and a Reader in Gastroenterology at the University of Birmingham.

Currently UHB is only the second place in the world to trial a new endocytoscope, which was launched and built in Japan just last November. Prof Iacucci is using the endocytoscope for research into inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. With the help of the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) teams, 40 patients are being recruited locally to take part in a new multi-centre, international study.

After receiving her medical degree and gastroenterology training from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” School of Medicine, Prof Iacucci completed her PhD at the University of Tor Vergata in Rome and Imperial College, London. Following some time as a gastroenterology consultant in Rome, she spent two years in London, Cambridge, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The next international move took Prof Iacucci on to the position of Canada’s Clinical Associate Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Calgary. While there she established an advanced endoscopic platform for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and cancer, by introducing novel imaging techniques and confocal endomicroscopy. In 2016 she joined the University of Birmingham as a Reader in gastroenterology and as an Honorary Consultant, before starting her research work at UHB.

The research is focused on advanced endoscopic imaging, such as the use of dyes, enabling tissues to be seen more clearly and differentiated, virtual electronic chromo endoscopy and confocal laser endomicroscopy in the early diagnosis of gastrointestinal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, better management of advanced polypectomy (the removal of polyps) in the colon and inflammatory bowel disease.

Prof Iacucci has published numerous research papers and has been invited to deliver lectures at many national and international conferences on endoscopy in IBD and gastrointestinal cancer.

She said: “Birmingham is now a very strong centre for advanced endoscopy technology. The use of the best and latest endoscopic technology simply means we can produce clearer and brighter pictures, showing more detail in the intestinal tract. We now have magnification like we have never seen before and overall better resolution too. For patients, this can mean earlier identification and treatment of cancer and even earlier sighting of lesions, which can be a prediction of cancer.”

The use of the technology for earlier diagnosis, and even preventative treatments for serious and life threatening illness, is the basis of the research which Prof Iacucci leads. She added: “With the technology we have available to us now, it is not just a case of predicting histology – but it is seeing histology.”

Prof Iacucci is able to share her vast knowledge and expertise with UHB thanks to funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), funding which has allowed her to recruit three research Fellows.

One Fellow is Rosanna Cannatelli, an Italian trainee in gastroenterology and endoscopy of University of Milan. She said: “I came to Birmingham at the beginning of March because of my interest in IBD and endoscopy. Advanced technologies are available here and that allow me to learn and expand my skills in this area and I am delighted to collaborating on different projects and I am increasing my knowledge.”

The world-leading expertise of Prof Iacucci also attracts the attention of the manufacturers of the latest endoscopic technology, who are keen to have an expert who can test their machinery to its fullest capacity.

She said: “It is the case now that clinicians are moving towards managing specific and more tailored treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, which can in the long run prevent complications. With the new scopes we can more easily assess inflammation in the bowel to see if the expensive drugs patients are being prescribed are actually working. This helps us to see if a patient is in control of their disease and if drugs can be stopped or reduced. Ultimately this reduces the use of unnecessary drugs and can save money for the NHS too.”

“We have a fantastic endoscopy suite here in the NIHR Clinical Research Facility (CRF) and at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital which provide a wonderful opportunity to develop even more advanced research and deliver the best care for our patients,” said Prof Iacucci. Her international reputation means that contact with colleagues, clinicians and researchers around the world is maintained. Recently an international live endoscopy procedure meeting, led by the Professor at the Clinical Research Facility in the Heritage Building, was broadcast around the world.

Being at the fore-front of the latest development s in endoscopy and even advising engineers in Japan on the development of new scopes, means that Prof Iacucci has put University Hospital Birmingham firmly on the map, as a world leader in procedures, treatment and research into bowel disease.