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 study looking at the care of people with head and neck cancer (Head and Neck 5000)
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This study looked at risk factors for head and neck cancer, and services available for those diagnosed with this type of cancer.
More about this trial
- general health
- alcohol intake
- smoking habits
- looking at how well these larger ‘centralised’ services work for people with head and neck cancer
- finding out more about factors that affect how well people do after diagnosis
Summary of results
The research team found that depression and smoking at diagnosis can affect the survival of people with head and neck cancer. But drinking alcohol at diagnosis is less likely to.
This trial was open for people to join between 2011 and 2014. The research team published results in 2018.
About this study
More than 5,000 people with head and neck cancer took part. They completed questionnaires and gave blood samples.
The research team found out more about the services available for people with head and neck cancer. They also looked at various factors that may affect people’s risk. There is more information below.
Services for patients
In 2009 and 2010, the research team sent questionnaires to health care professionals caring for people with head and neck cancer in the UK.
They asked 37 cancer networks about the number of people in their area, how many new cases of head and neck cancer there were and what services were available.
They asked 53 cancer hospitals about waiting times, availability of treatments, the number of specialists and how many people joined clinical trials.
They asked 63 multi disciplinary teams (MDTs) about facilities for meetings, the types of patients they discussed and communication about decisions. An MDT is a team of various health care professionals who discuss treatment options and care for specific patients.
- on average, 263 people were diagnosed with head and neck cancer in each cancer network per year
- the average time before people started treatment was 25 days
- facilities for team meeting are generally acceptable
- most MDTs have weekly meetings and discuss an average of 18 patients per meeting
- most cancer specialists are able to prescribe common treatments and radiotherapy
- the number of patients who join a clinical trial is low in many hospitals
- some centres didn’t record or communicate information about the MDT discussions very well
- some people who drank a large amount of alcohol decreased their intake after diagnosis, but most didn’t
- most people who were smoking at diagnosis had stopped 12 months later
- some people who used to smoke but had given up, started smoking again after their diagnosis
- most people who were smoking 4 months after diagnosis were still smoking 12 months after diagnosis
- 66 people died out of 772 people (9%) who had never had depressive symptoms
- 18 people died out of 198 people (9%) who had previously had depressive symptoms but had recovered
- 39 people died out of 247 people (16%) who continued to have depressive symptoms
They concluded that people who continue to have depressive symptoms are more likely to die sooner. They suggest that work needs to be done to find out how depression affects survival.
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Andy Ness
NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research Scheme
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
University of Bristol