A study looking for changes in genes that cause head and neck cancer (PREGO)

Cancer type:

Head and neck cancers
Laryngeal cancer
Mouth (oral) cancer
Nasal and paranasal sinus cancer
Oesophageal cancer





This study looked at changes in genes that may have caused cancer to develop. The study was open to people with head and neck cancers apart from eye cancer.

More about this trial

Most head and neck cancers can take many years to develop. The stages they most often go through are:

  • normal tissue
  • abnormal tissue (precancerous Open a glossary item)
  • early cancer (carcinoma in situ Open a glossary item
  • cancer that is growing into the surrounding tissues (invasive cancer Open a glossary item)
  • cancer that may spread 

The researchers wanted to collect samples of cells from all these stages to look at the genes Open a glossary item in them.

The aim of this study was to see if they could find any changes in genes that have caused head and neck cancer to develop.

Summary of results

The researchers have shown that the abnormal (precancerous) tissue has a considerable number of gene changes (mutations) in the cells. The number of the changes in the abnormal tissue does not predict whether cancer develops or not.   
148 people took part in this study.  They had squamous cell cancer Open a glossary item of the:

  • mouth
  • back of the mouth
  • inside of the nose and sinuses
  • voice box
  • food pipe

From each person the study team took:

  • a small piece of the cancer tissue (biopsy Open a glossary item)
  • some cells from the area of cancer using a small brush
  • a mouthwash
  • a blood sample

The team looked at samples of tissue from the mouth that were:

  • normal
  • abnormal but not cancer (dysplasia Open a glossary item)
  • cancer 

The study team concluded they could identify changes in the genes of cancer cells that might cause cancer and further studies are needed to confirm their findings.  

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) but may not have been published in a medical journal.  The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Pamela Rabbitts

Supported by

University of Leeds
Yorkshire Cancer Research

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials in the UK last year.

Last reviewed:

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