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New hope for patients with head and neck cancers

27 July 2015

Queenslanders with head and neck cancers could benefit from improved survival thanks to an Australian-first clinical trial being launched at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

The trial, to be rolled out nationally, is being conducted by the PAH Cancer Services and Head and Neck Departments with the support of the PA Research Foundation.

Director of Radiation Oncology Research at PAH, Associate Professor Sandro Porceddu said the revolutionary trial involved the drug Nimoral, which has shown promising results in Europe.

“Nimoral is taken in tablet form by patients undergoing standard radiation and chemotherapy treatment for head and neck cancers,” Dr Porceddu said.

“No needles or additional admissions into hospital are required – that’s one of the greatest benefits of this trial drug.

“Early evidence suggests that Nimoral can make cancer cells more responsive to radiotherapy, and patients experience very few side effects.

“This trial will further test the effectiveness of the drug in patients with head and neck cancers.”

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the trial could help to give Queenslanders a better chance of surviving head and neck cancers.

“Only about 61 per cent of Queenslanders diagnosed with a head or neck cancer survive more than five years after their diagnosis – for some patients, the chance of survival is only 50 per cent,” Ms Clift said.

More than 700 head and neck cancers are diagnosed in Queensland each year, and around 270 people die from the disease.

Cancer Council and the PA Research Foundation have urged all Queenslanders to be aware of the symptoms of head and neck cancers.

“Possible symptoms include a sore throat, voice changes, or lumps in the neck area,” Ms Clift said.

“Symptoms depend on the site but can include pain, swelling, developing a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing and bad breath.

“People who experience any of these symptoms should talk to their GP straight away.

“Those who smoke and consume more than the recommended intake of alcohol are at greatest risk, and can lower their risk by quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake.

Head and neck cancers occur inside the sinuses, nose, mouth and throat, voice box and salivary glands.

PAH patient Alan Cornick is symptom free after his 2014 diagnosis of throat cancer and subsequent treatment at PA Hospital.

“Luckily, my diagnosis was a very treatable type of cancer that has an 80 per cent chance of recovery,” he said.

“I’m in remission now but if someone had come to me at the start of my treatment saying ‘you can take this tablet to improve your recovery’, I would have been straight onto it.

“The benefit of cutting treatment down from seven weeks to five weeks would have been great – anything to know that you are getting rid of cancer faster!”

The trial is being conducted under the auspices of the Trans Tasman Radiation Oncology Group, a global leader in radiotherapy research.

TO JOIN THE TRIAL:

If you are interested in joining the trial for Head and Neck Cancer, you will need to be referred by your treating doctor to our Radiation Oncology Clinic.  Please tell your doctor to go to the Metro South GP Referral Hub.

http://metrosouth.health.qld.gov.au/referrals/central-referral-hub

Last updated 7 December 2015
Last reviewed 27 July 2015

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