Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial looking at the treatment of local cancer spread in head and neck cancers
This trial compared surgery to remove lymph nodes in squamous cell cancers of the head and neck with a ‘watch and wait’ policy using PET-CT scanning.
More about this trial
Some people don’t have any cancer in their lymph nodes after chemoradiation and don’t need surgery. But when this trial was done, there was no reliable way to identify which people still had remaining cancer cells. Doctors thought a new type of scanner called a PET-CT could help to see if there were any cancer cells in the lymph nodes.
The aims of the trial were to
- find out if PET-CT scanning after chemoradiation could help this group of people
- find out more about
quality of lifeand cost
Summary of results
The trial team found that PET-CT scanning was very useful. It can prevent unnecessary operations and better target areas of cancer in the small number of people who do need surgery.
564 people took part. After chemoradiation, they were put into 1 of 2 treatment groups at random
- 282 to have neck dissection surgery as usual. This was called the control group
- 282 to have a PET-CT scan. This was called the surveillance group. They went on to have surgery if the scan found cancer cells.
The trial team looked at who had surgery. This was
- 221 people in the control group
- 54 people in the surveillance group
- the number of people living 2 years after treatment had finished. This is called overall survival
- quality of life
They found there was no difference between the 2 different groups in either of these.
The researchers concluded that
- there was no difference in overall survival between the control group and the surveillance group
- having a PET-CT resulted in fewer operations and this was more cost effective
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Hisham Mehanna
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire
University of Warwick