Under the spotlight


The Channel 4 series Super Surgeons: A Chance at Life follows Royal Marsden patients with advanced or relapsed cancers who are preparing for innovative surgery. Ms Marielle Nobbenhuis, gynaecological oncology surgeon at The Royal Marsden, explains why she was happy to feature in the show

For the past 13 years I have been honoured to work as a gynaecological oncology consultant at The Royal Marsden. My specialities include laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery, cervical cancer and radical surgery for ovarian cancer. Last year, I opened a clinic at The Royal Marsden Private Care diagnostic and treatment facility in Cavendish Square, which provides fast, early diagnosis and clear, effective treatment pathways for patients.

Along with other surgeons at the hospital, I have been under the spotlight for almost a year, with a documentary crew filming a three-part series for Channel 4. Although it initially took a while for me to get used to being filmed, over time it became normal, and I stopped noticing the camera crew around me. The documentary follows eight patients with advanced or relapsed cancers who are preparing for innovative surgery. Patients are referred to us from hospitals across the UK for highly complex surgical procedures that use state-of-the-art technologies. In the gynaecological oncology department, a third of our referrals are from other cancer centres. We have the expertise in recurrent and fertility-saving surgery, a specific speciality that many other hospitals don’t have.  Supporting patients has always been my passion and by doing this job I am able to push boundaries with my work.

Ms Marielle Nobbenhuis of The Royal Marsden

Ms Marielle Nobbenhuis of The Royal Marsden

The first robotic hysterectomy in the UK took place at The Royal Marsden in 2007. Robotic surgery allows us to operate in a different way, which has resulted in less perioperative complications, shorter hospital stays and a quicker return to normal activities for patients. At The Royal Marsden, we have now performed on almost 1,200 gynaecological cancer cases using the robot, and as the president of the Gynaecological Robotic Society, I aim to increase the opportunities for women to have access to robotic surgery. Over the past 10 years I have seen a huge amount of change in the way we’re able to treat cancer. I am excited to see what the future holds for cancer treatment, particularly developments in personalised medicine and using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to diagnose cancer and influence treatment pathways.  

There are lots of patients we can cure, which is one of the most incredible aspects of being a surgeon. We are there for our patients during a very intense moment in their life, which means we develop a special relationship with them. They have a family, a life, a job, and they want to live. Being in a position to help them navigate their way through all that is so humbling. There is no better feeling than when I can give patients their future back.

I wanted to be part of the series as I’d like to inspire women to become gynaecological cancer surgeons. Although the working hours can be particularly long, I wanted to show people how rewarding this job can be and encourage more women to go into the profession. It’s truly an honour to be able to give cancer patients the best possible treatment and care – they are at the centre of everything we do.

Watch Super Surgeons: A Chance at Life