There are Local Authority populations in Liverpool with an annual incidence of 35 cases per 100,000 - three times the national average - and an incidence which compares with socio-economically deprived regions of India, South America and South Africa.
The incidence of head and neck cancer in Liverpool correlates strongly with socio-economic deprivation, and mortality rate is higher than that for England as a whole. It is likely that this is influenced by patients overlooking early symptoms and signs of their disease and presenting with advanced tumours, reducing the chances of a successful cure.
Treatment of head and neck cancer typically results in major impact on quality of life after treatment. The need to balance cure with quality of life means that successful treatment of patients with head and neck cancer not only requires a highly-functioning multi-disciplinary team of specialist surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, anaesthetists, speech therapists, dieticians, specialist dentists and nurses, but also close working relationships between dhospitals and specialist cancer trusts.
In Liverpool, such an organisation exists and has its origins in internationally renowned units of Ear, Nose and Throat and Maxillofacial Surgery that have delivered high-quality care for head and neck cancer patients for many decades. The current multi-disciplinary team, hosted at Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, constitutes the largest centralised head and neck clinical unit in the UK, seeing in excess of 650 new cases per year.
Mersey Head and Neck Oncology Research Group - a major research group of the University of Liverpool - in collaboration with colleagues from Liverpool John Moores University, Edge Hill University and other UK universities, is ideally placed to undertake the research necessary to answer the fundamental questions which need to be addressed, and in doing so improve the outcomes of patients unfortunate enough to develop head and neck cancer.
These outstanding issues include:
- The personalisation of treatment for individual patients
- Discrimination of tumours which will do badly from those that will do well
- Prediction with better accuracy the impact of treatments on swallowing, speech and quality of life
- Improvement of quality of life after treatment
- Development of novel treatments to improve cure rates whilst reducing the side effects of treatment
Liverpool Head and Neck Centre is a far-sighted initiative, created following formal collaboration between the University of Liverpool, Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Liverpool Health Partners.
LHNC combines the strengths of the clinical units and research group in order to urgently address an unmet local healthcare need, by developing a world-class programme of translational research directed at enhancing the quality and safety of patient care. Whilst the academic programme of research into head and neck cancer is most advanced, the Centre is designed to have global impact and aims to actively encourage and facilitate the academic development of other clinical subspecialty areas.