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Date: 30 July 2021
History of the Sarcoma Unit
Historically, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) has provided a small surgical and oncology service for patients referred with abdominal, retroperitoneal and pelvic sarcomas. Patient numbers were initially very limited (usually in single figures per year) and the service was based on a personal referral practice to a single surgeon or to the Academic Department of Surgery. This was the situation when the department was run by Professors Geoff Slaney and Frank Ashton in the 1980s. Mr John Fielding continued the practice and also established an interest pelvic exenteration surgery for recurrent and locally advanced gynaecological malignancies.
The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (ROH) has long been an established centre for the treatment of patients with extremity soft tissue and bone sarcomas. The ROH provides one of the largest sarcoma services in Europe and has a national reputation for the management of bone sarcomas. Following the arrival of Professor Gourevitch at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2003, links were consolidated between the two hospitals, integrating patient care and operating jointly. Clinical and medical oncology services have always been a joint service between QEHB and ROH, with clinicians working across both Trusts.
“Improving Outcomes Guidance for Sarcomas” (IOG Sarcoma) was published by NICE in March 2006. This manual reviewed available published evidence for the management of sarcoma patients. Among its many recommendations it emphasised the importance of greater specialisation in the management of sarcoma patients and the positive impact this has on patient outcomes.
Since 2007, there has been significant expansion of the sarcoma service at QEHB. The Midland Abdominal and Retroperitoneal/Pelvic Sarcoma Unit (MARSU) was established following presentations to the Department of Health, and a national review of services. This has resulted in increasing numbers of referrals from hospitals in the West Midlands and beyond.
MARSU receives direct referrals from neighbouring hospitals within the West Midlands, the Three Counties Cancer Network (Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire) and other referrals from all over the UK. There are now regular referrals from North Wales, and MARSU has established a formal link with Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.
In 2011, Mr Anant Desai was appointed as a dedicated Sarcoma Surgeon. Mr Sam Ford was appointed in 2015.