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Liverpool Researchers Target Unresponsive Head and Neck Cancers

Head and Neck Cancer

NWCR is funding scientists at the University of Liverpool to identify how to improve the effectiveness of head and neck cancer treatments.

The funding comes as rates rise across the region. In the North West around 1,100 people a year are diagnosed with head and neck cancer and in Liverpool you are three times more likely to be diagnosed with this type of cancer than anywhere else in the UK.[1]

Symptoms of head and neck cancers are often mistaken for more common illnesses, which mean that many cases are already advanced at diagnosis stage, making treatment more difficult.

Men are also three times more likely to develop head and neck cancers than women.

North West Cancer Research has now funded £200k into a 3-year research project, which will seek to improve treatment outcomes for those types of head and neck cancers which are more difficult to treat.

The research team headed by Dr Jason Parsons, has already discovered the mechanisms through which certain types of head and neck cancers respond well to established and proven radiotherapy treatments.

Now they are turning their focus towards the majority of cancers which don’t respond well to treatment and to identify new, more effective strategies in combination with radiotherapy.

Dr Parsons and his team are using innovative 3D models of head and neck cancers to mimic the behavior of the original tumour and see how they respond to radiotherapy and drug combinations. Importantly this work is focused on proton beam therapy, which is a targeted cancer treatment, along with colleagues at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

He said: “The funding from North West Cancer Research will allow us to make important advances in our understanding of the effects that radiotherapy treatments, particularly proton beam therapy, can have on head and neck cancer cells.

“We are working to make what we hope will be new and significant discoveries to develop more effective treatments for patients, leading to improved prognosis.

“Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the UK and here in the North West, rates are rising at an alarming rate which is why it’s crucial that we keep working towards finding the best treatments for this type of cancer.”

North West Cancer Research launched its head and neck cancer awareness campaign #SpeakOut in May to encourage men across the North West to be more vigilant when it comes to the early warning signs of head and neck cancers.

To find out more about the symptoms of head and neck cancer, or view the campaign video, visit the #SpeakOut campaign page here.

[1] Research taken from: Socioeconomic deprivation and the burden of head and neck cancer—Regional variations of incidence and mortality in Merseyside and Cheshire, North West, England, 2018