Get A-Head boost for cancer treatment research

Research into treatment options for people with incurable head and neck cancer has received a boost from Midlands-founded charity Get A-Head.

Get A-Head has awarded £8,149 to a study based at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Northwood, Middlesex, to find out whether routine use of targeted radiotherapy together with upfront palliative care referral, can improve the quality of life for patients and their caregivers.

The study, known as GOAL27-6, is being led by Dr Kevin Chiu, who is a consultant head and neck oncologist and radiotherapy clinical lead with the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust.

Get A-Head chairman Tom Bromwich, who is also the founding partner of Coventry-based commercial property agency Bromwich Hardy, said: “It is a sad fact that about a quarter of patients with head and neck cancers aren’t considered curable. It is important that these patients have the best quality of life possible, both for themselves and the people around them.

“Dr Chiu and his team have anecdotal evidence that their radiotherapy approach can reduce pain and other unpleasant symptoms – this study will give them a more evidence-based picture of the treatment’s success.

“I’m delighted that Get A-Head is able to support this work. Improving quality of life for patients is one of our key aims, and anything that can help patients have a properly informed assessment of their options is to be supported.”

The team at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre wants to assess the impact on quality of life of intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), a more precise treatment which is known to have fewer side effects than traditional radiotherapy.

Dr Chiu said: “As an incurable cancer grows, patients often have debilitating symptoms such as pain, discharge or bleeding that could adversely affect their quality of life and that of their caregivers. Palliative radiotherapy aims to relieve these symptoms.

“IMRT is more precisely targeted than traditional radiotherapy. We started using IMRT routinely for palliative head and neck radiation in 2019 and patients have reported a marked improvement in their quality of life.

“We would like to get objective evidence of this improvement. There is a wide variation in the palliative radiotherapy practice and formal palliative care referral processes regionally and nationally, so our research might help improve this aspect for patients.

“We also know that the quality of life for caregivers of these patients is equally important but less researched. We would therefore like to explore this objectively. I am grateful for the support of Get A-Head for this study.”

Mount Vernon Cancer Centre treats about 50 head and neck patients with palliative radiotherapy every year. The study aims to recruit 30 patients with head and neck squamous cell cancers, as well as their nominated caregivers.

A standardised questionnaire will be used to assess their quality of life at six-weekly intervals for six months. The Get-A-Head grant will be used to cover the administrative costs of the study.

Get A-Head is a UK charity founded in the Midlands. It aims to improve the lives of people with head and neck injury or disease, particularly cancer. It supports research, funds education and training for healthcare professionals and provides equipment and complementary therapies to help patients live better with their condition and its effects.