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Prof Laurence Lovat
67-73 Riding House Street
Tel: 0044 20 7679 9060
  • Professor of Gastroenterology and Biophotonics
  • Department of Targeted Intervention
  • Div of Surgery & Interventional Sci
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences

Professor Lovat convenes the annual Barrett's Oesophagus research symposium at UCL on behalf of the Heartburn Cancer UK charity. 

Professor Lovat is on the scientific advisory committee to the UK BE Foundation and is Topic Lead for BE in the National Electronic Library for Health. 

He is a specialist advisor to NICE

Research Summary

Oesophageal adenocarcinoma is rapidly rising in incidence and is now the fourth commonest cause of cancer mortality in men in the UK. Most cases arise within Barrett's oesophagus (BE). Our research initially focused on development of optical diagnostic and therapeutic tools for managing premalignant changes in Barrett's oesophagus. This expanded to include discovery of biomarkers of progression and prognosis. The lab now has a new focus - antibody directed imaging & photodynamic therapy for established oesophageal cancer.

There are no animal models of this disease. We have, however, developed the largest tertiary patient referral base in the UK & one of the largest patient cohorts in Europe. Most of our patients are keen to support the reserach efforts and more than 500 enrol in research trials every year. 

1. Optical spectroscopy and imaging. Professor Lovat initially won a 5 year NIH grant to explore elastic scattering spectroscopy for diagnosing pre-cancer (dysplasia) in BE. During this work, in close collaboration with Prof. Marco Novelli in Pathology and Prof. Tom Fearn, in Statistical Science at UCL, together with Prof Irving Bigio at University of Boston, the team showed that not only is it possible to detect high grade dysplasia in vivo in real time with an accuracy of up to 90%, but it is also possible to detect DNA content (aneuploidy). This led to a CRUK project grant at UCL followed by an MRC collaborative grant to demonstrate this prospectively in N. Ireland Barrett?s registry. It also led to CRUK funded evaluation of cytosponge biomarkers of risk in BE in collaboration with Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald in Cambridge. We have developed collaborations with Prof Paul Beard in UCL Medical Physics & Bioengineering to develop photoacoustic imaging and with Prof Peter Rich in the Department of Structural & Molecular Biology at UCL to develop mid-infra red spectroscopy for ex vivo analysis of Barrett's oesophagus biopsies. Our ultimate vision is to obtain instant optical diagnosis with no need for histology at all. 

2. Ablative therapy to treat dysplasia in BE. We treated more than 500 patients in phase 1 and 2 trials of photodynamic therapy (PDT). We then set up a national registry for the new radiofrequency ablation treatment (RFA) of BE to which we have recruited over 1,800 patients nationally from 26 centres. The Registry is now recognized by NICE and all patients undergoing this treatment should be enrolled in it. This success led to the NIHR BRIDE randomised controlled trial of argon plasma coagulation therapy compared to RFA. 

3. Antibody Directed Photodynamic Therapy (ADP). This work developed both for oesophago-gastric cancer and for bacterial disease. The laboratory work started in vitro. We then developed new in vivo models for testing these novel approaches to oesophageal cancer.

4. Saliva to Predict disease rIsk using Transcriptomics and epigenetic (SPIT). The use of invasive endoscopic testing to exclude important disease has, perhaps, spiralled out of control. We need simpler, less invasive, approaches to triage patients at risk. We have been funded by CORE, the Rosetrees Trust and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust to explore different diagnostic approaches using saliva to identify both the presence and the risk of developing oesophageal and colon cancer. 

Teaching Summary

Professor Lovat supervises MD and PhD research students in the research department for tissue and energy. 

He gives weekly hands-on teaching to postgraduate gastroenterology trainees in advanced endsocopic therapy as well as outpatient based teaching to medical students in communication skills.

Professor Lovat also lectures on various MSc and advanced gastroenterology training courses, locally and as a national and international invited speaker. 

01-OCT-2013 Professor of Gastroenterology & Biophotonics Research Department for Tissue & Energy Division of Surgery & Interventional Science, United Kingdom
01-OCT-1999 Consultant Gastroenterologist   UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom
Academic Background
1987 MBBS Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery – Medicine/Surgery University College London
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