Discovering the Aintree Attitude

by Helen Morement

Through my work with the National Cancer Research Institute(1) Hepatobiliary Sub-Group where clinical trials are planned and discussed, I had already met Mr Hassan Malik(2) and Professor Dan Palmer(3) from Liverpool, and knew of their in depth knowledge and expertise with cholangiocarcinoma.  So I was very pleased when they invited me to Aintree Hospital, Liverpool to meet other members of their HPB team, including Professor Graeme Poston, and hear more about their work.  I was also delighted to be asked to speak about AMMF and its work at the launch meeting of the Aintree CC Patient Support Group.

During our discussions pre lunch and over lunch the focus was, of course, very much on how to achieve optimal treatment for those with cholangiocarcinoma and it was indeed incredibly refreshing to hear what I can only describe as, “the Aintree attitude” – which is a very positive one. Surgery whenever and wherever possible, and maintenance regimes for optimal quality of life where this is not possible, with no age discrimination. It was also good to learn that the team are happy to accept referrals to be discussed at their MDT meetings, and will recommend other centres or specialists if they feel they cannot help.

Then it was on to the launch of the CC Patient Support Group. Dr Clare Byrne, (Advanced Nurse Practitioner), Claire Burston and Louise Jones (both Clinical Nurse Specialists) had invited a relatively small number of people as this was their first venture in this area. Everyone who accepted had had a resection, and all looked fantastic!  Mike and Beryl were 5 years post-op, Jim and Michelle were at the 3 year mark, Sylvia’s op was 18 months ago, and Mary was the most recent at 5 months.

It was great to have the opportunity to tell them about AMMF, and then to move on to open discussion where topics such as symptoms, speed of diagnosis, surgery experiences and recovery, were shared. Not surprisingly, several had had to make repeated doctor visits, and one or two had had to push really hard to be listened to, before getting a referral. A little oddly though, several seemed unaware of how dire a diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma is for so many people, and that not everyone is operable …

However, they were a lively group and there was a lot of laughter, especially when Sylvia said she wouldn’t have been surprised if Mr Malik had left her on the table during her 14 hour operation, with a sign on the door saying, “Gone to lunch”!

It was hard, though, whilst in the company of these lovely people, chatting and laughing, not to think of all those others who haven’t been so fortunate, who received their diagnosis too late to benefit from the skills of a specialist surgeon like Mr Malik and the care of his team …  If only everyone unfortunate enough to get a diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma could then get the ‘lucky break’ that these people had …

Back to “the Aintree Attitude” – the care and dedication that shone through all the medical staff I met during this visit was almost tangible – wonderful people committed to doing the best they possibly can for their cholangiocarcinoma patients.  I certainly look forward to AMMF building a closer relationship with them in the future.

Ask me, would I want to be treated at Aintree – and my answer would be an unequivocal, yes!


(1) National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) – a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry which promotes co-operation in cancer research among the 22 member organisations for the benefit of patients, the public and the scientific community.

(2) Mr Hassan MalikConsultant Hepatobiliary Surgeon and Clinical lead for Liver surgery at University Hospital Aintree. Appointed in 2007, he has introduced complex liver surgical techniques within the unit. These include vascular resections and the use of veno-veno bypass. He has a personal experience in excess of 300 liver resections. Areas of clinical interest include the management of cholangiocarcinoma; colorectal liver metastases; hepatocellular carcinoma; retroperitoneal sarcoma and gallbladder surgery.

(3) Professor Dan Palmer – Liverpool University’s Chair of Medical Oncology, based in the Dept of Surgery and Oncology. Appointed in 2011, Professor Palmer’s research interests relate to HPB cancers (pancreas, liver and biliary tract) and incorporate basic laboratory science, translational research and clinical trials.

June 2013