£1.5m for Liverpool head and neck cancer research

The University of Liverpool Mersey Head & Neck Oncology Research Group (MHNORG) has been awarded £1.5m of funding for two multi-centre head and neck cancer studies.

The University of Liverpool reports that MHNORG, a research collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Aintree University Hospital, the Liverpool Dental Hospital and Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, brings together a multidisciplinary team of cancer surgeons, medical oncologists and scientists. MHNORG

The MRC and the NIHR have awarded £1.5m for two trials, called SAVER and DEFEND. The SAVER trial is a phase II chemoprevention trial with a focus on prevention of oral cancer developing from high risk precursors. The DEFEND trial addresses the prevention of complications in head and neck surgery. Both are randomised controlled trials developed through North West Surgical Trials Centre, part of CRUK Liverpool Cancer Trials Unit. The DEFEND trial will also fund a PhD training programme for a surgical trainee, Mandeep Bajwa, which is led in collaboration with the MRC North West Hub for Trials Methodology.

Around a thousand people a year are referred to the Aintree unit with head and neck cancers, and in some areas of Liverpool, the incidence of head and neck cancer is four times the national average.

Most head and neck cancer patients are treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy drugs, which can cause significant side effects. Survival figures for head and neck cancers are improving, and MHNORG is also developing further major funding proposals to modify treatments in virally mediated tumours for Professor Terry Jones, and in new areas of cancer immunotherapy for Dr Joe Sacco.

Richard Shaw, Professor of Head & Neck Surgery, Honorary Consultant in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, leads on the SAVER trial, and Andrew Schache, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, leads on the DEFEND trial.

Richard Shaw, said “The statistics and growing understanding of head and neck cancers highlight the need to develop prevention, targeted therapies with less side effects, as well as better overall cure rates. These major grants highlight the rewards of an effective clinical academic collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Aintree Trust, putting the patient at the centre of head and neck oncology research.”

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