Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers start in the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, sinuses or salivary glands. They can be complex and expensive to treat.  

In 2018, an estimated 5,091 people were diagnosed with head and neck cancers in 2018, and an estimated 1034 died from the disease. It is one of the most expensive cancers to treat, in terms of public hospital resources. 

Various research groups at TRI are investigating ways to improve how we diagnose and treat head and neck cancers:

  • Can blood samples can used to determine which patients are more likely to benefit from immunotherapy? QUT's Associate Professor Chamindie Punyadeera analysing circulating tumour cells (CTCs) extracted from patient blood samples in an effort to more accurately assess which cancer patients will likely benefit from PD-1 based immunotherapies. This project was funded by a 2016 TRI Spore GrantRead more
  • The Queensland Centre of Excellence for Head and Neck Cancer (QCEHNC), based at the TRI and Princess Alexandra Hospital campus, aims to help better understand, prevent, diagnose and treat head and neck cancers in Australia. It stems from a multidisciplinary collaboration in ear, nose and throat surgery, oncology, radiation oncology and scientific research.
  • Researchers from The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute are working on treating live tumours to ascertain how cancers responds to treatment, saliva diagnostic tests to detect squamous cell carcinomas, and developing potential therapeutic options. 
  • Professor Nick Saunders, A/Prof Chamindie Punyadeera and Dr Fiona Simpson are working to improve diagnosis and existing therapies, in addition to identifying entirely new ways to treat advanced head and neck cancers by working with clinicians and patients.
  • Admedus Immunotherapies is a global medical technologies company based at TRI that is currently testing a vaccine to treat HPV-associated head and neck cancers. To learn more about their work, watch TRIangle Video Series Episode 2 - Immunotherapies for Head and Neck Cancer.

Key Researchers
Nicholas Andrew Saunders
Chamindie Punyadeera
Fiona Simpson
Key Aims
  • To deliver novel diagnostic and treatment modalities.
  • To develop safer and more cost effective methods of treatment to share internationally, particularly Southeast Asia.
  • To train the most advanced multidisciplinary workforce for the benefit for all patients touched by the disease.
Immunotherapies for Head and Neck Cancer at TRI
Radiation Oncology linear accelerator
Princess Alexandra Hospital campus
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