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A research collaboration between Aintree and the University of Liverpool, known as the Mersey Head & Neck Oncology Research Group (MHNORG), has been awarded £1.5 million for two multicenter head and neck cancer studies.

Around 1,000 people a year are referred to Aintree with head and neck cancers, and in some areas of the Liverpool, the incidence of head and neck cancer is twice the national average.

Most head and neck cancer patients are treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy drugs, which can cause significant side effects. 

The funding, which was awarded by the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research, will help with two trials called SAVER and DEFEND.

The SAVER trial is a phase two chemoprevention trial, with a focus on prevention of oral cancer developing from high risk precursors, and the DEFEND trial addresses the prevention of complications in head and neck surgery. 

Both are randomised controlled trials developed through North West Surgical Trials Centre, part of Cancer Research UK’s Liverpool Cancer Trials Unit. The DEFEND trial will also fund a PhD training programme for a surgical trainee.

Professor Richard Shaw, Honorary Consultant in Oral and Maxillofacial / Head and Neck Surgery at Aintree, leads on the SAVER trial. He said: “These major grants highlight the rewards of an effective clinical academic collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Aintree, putting the patient at the centre of head and neck oncology research. The statistics and growing understanding of head and neck cancers highlight the need to develop prevention, targeted therapies with less side effects, as well as better overall cure rates.”

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