Q&A: Head and Neck Cancer Research

Professor Vinidh Paleri, Consultant Head and Neck Surgeon and Director of the International Centre for Recurrent Head & Neck Cancer (IReC), reveals the aims of the new virtual centre, which is being funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

What is recurrent head and neck cancer?

This is an umbrella term for cancers of the voice box, throat, lips, mouth, nose, and salivary and thyroid glands. It’s often hard to treat and aggressive and, depending on the type and site of the cancer, between a fifth and half of cases return.

professor vin paleri

What is IReC and why has it been launched?

At The Royal Marsden, we’ve great expertise in managing head and neck cancers. IReC will harness the specialist knowledge of The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) by bringing together talented clinicians and researchers to create a global centre of excellence. Through research, it will set national and international standards in the treatment, palliation and supportive care of patients with recurrent head and neck cancer.

The centre is being funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, thanks to the generous support of Charles Wilson and Dr Rowena Olegario and Keith and Isabelle McDermott.

What projects are being funded?

There’s a national registry to develop our understanding of recurrent head and neck cancer and capture variation in how it is treated across the UK, plus a tissue biobank to help explore and validate key research findings. New research staff, including three PhD research fellows, a trial manager, a clinical trial nurse and a data manager, are also being funded.

How will the centre benefit patients?

IReC data will form the basis for multi-centre clinical trials which, ultimately, will lead to improved patient outcomes. We aim to explore minimally invasive surgery using the da Vinci Xi robots, and combining surgery with immunotherapy and other novel agents. We also hope to investigate the role of viral therapies and biomarkers in developing new treatments.

What are your hopes for the next few years?

Through the registry, biobank and leading-edge global research projects, IReC will help define standards for treatment of recurrent head and neck cancer in the NHS and, in future, internationally.

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