Researchers at North Middlesex University Hospital are the first in the UK to run a new trial for people with head and neck cancer.
The study hopes to help those who have recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
Head and neck cancers include cancers of the mouth and the throat, as well as some rarer types of cancer. These include cancer of the sinuses, the salivary glands, or the nose or middle ear. Doctors also describe head and neck cancers according to the type of cell they start in. Most are squamous cell cancers, which start in the cells lining the mouth, nose and throat. More than 90% of tumours in the head and neck are squamous carcinomas.
Cancer of the head and neck, is often preventable, and if diagnosed early is usually curable, but for those unfortunate enough to have recurrent or metastatic cancer – cancers which come back or which have spread to other parts of the body – the prognosis is poorer and the disease can be fatal.
The study at North Middlesex University Hospital has opened to examine a new drug combination using medicines that work by helping the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer. The trial compares the new combination to the usual treatment for this type of cancer which includes chemotherapy.
Whilst examining the safety and effectiveness of the drugs, the trial hopes, ultimately, to prolong the life of those with the disease.
Principle investigator, Dr Anna Thompson, a consultant clinical oncologist at North Middlesex University Hospital, explained: “The purpose of this study is to compare the efficacy and safety of these drugs with the currently used regimen for recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer. We are excited about the study as we have seen the benefit of these drugs in other types of cancer and are hopeful that they may help fight head and neck cancers more effectively and extend life.”
North Middlesex University Hospital is the first of 12 UK sites taking part in the research trials to start.
Pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme Ltd (MSD), produce the drug and the trial is sponsored by Incyte Corporation. The trial is adopted to the NIHR portfolio of studies and results are hoped to be reported within a year of the study’s completion which is planned in d March 2022.