Charles Akle is one of the UK’s most prominent surgeons. He trained at Guy’s Hospital and is a winner of the prestigious Hallett Prize from the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

His early research was into immunity, especially as it related to organ transplantation, which was the subject of his Master of Surgery thesis from the University of London. Subsequently he concentrated on gastro-intestinal surgery and cancer. In particular, besides treating established cancers, he was a keen advocate of colonoscopic removal of polyps in the bowel as a preventative measure for colon cancer and was a skilled endoscopist.

Charles helped to pioneer laparoscopic (otherwise known as keyhole) surgery and helped train many of today’s surgeons across Europe in the specialty. This was quite disruptive at the time, and it took some years for the establishment to recognise the enormous benefits of minimal invasion requiring great skill.

He has always believed in the relationship between the immune system and cancer, but also between the immune system and the brain, via the gut-brain axis. This was clear to him from operations that would cut the nerves to the stomach to try and cure duodenal ulcers, as well as his early interest in the microbiome and faecal transplantation for antibiotic associated colitis.

When he retired from active surgery, he directed his efforts into establishing immunotherapy for cancer.  Again, this was considered disruptive by the establishment until very recently, when it became first line therapy for many cancers. 

With his colleague, Dr Satvinder Mudan, he began using mycobacterial agents in a number of cancers and soon realised the dramatic effect this had on the mood, wellbeing and quality of life of these very stressed cancer patients.

Watch Charles at TEDx

These observations prompted Professor Chris Lowry to concentrate his research on the effects of mycobacteria on the brain. Professor Georges Bahr was also an early collaborator and his research on the immunological effects in human cells has proved invaluable.

Professor Graham Rook, has led the world in adapting his experience with environmental organisms, especially mycobacteria, to formulate his Hygiene Hypothesis which dovetailed nicely with the immunological concepts on chronic inflammation that underpin our ideas. He continues to develop his ideas which are now widely accepted as a means to try and improve human habitation and health.

Charles has always been one to challenge dogma but he believes strongly in excellence; in preventative medicine where individuals can help themselves; in trying to develop therapies, especially for cancer, that are affordable and kind; and that a patient’s interest always comes first.