Professor of Head and Neck Surgery, Cancer Lead for NIHR CRN NWC and Honorary Consultant Otolaryngologist / Head and Neck Surgeon, University of Liverpool and Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
What area of cancer research do you specialise in and how did you get in to it?
Head and neck cancer – my background specialty is Otorhinolaryngology or Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery. A subspecialty of this branch of surgery is the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer. Head and Neck cancers are cancers which originate from the lining of the mouth and throat and involve the lymph nodes of the neck. My main clinical interests relate to function-sparing cancer surgery, in particular, transoral laser microsurgery (TLM).
My research interests can be divided into four main themes:
- Basic/translational research: Including the molecular biology of radioresistance, cellular motility and the differential treatment response seen between HPV +ve and –ve oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas.
- Early and late phase Clinical Trials: I’m Chief and Joint Chief Investigator respectively for two national CR-UK funded H&N studies: REALISTIC and PATHOS and Co –investigator for the DDO funded AMG-319 window study.
- Clinical outcomes research: I have a particular interest in swallowing and voice outcomes following TLM.
- Cancer Inequalities: In particular, their impact on incidence and outcome for patients with head and neck cancer.
What inspired you to forge a career in cancer research?
Prior to medicine, I completed a degree in Microbiology and Molecular Biology at the University of London. It was always my intention to try to use that prior knowledge and training in my surgical practice and clinical research was the obvious way to combine the two.
What have you been working on most recently?
Currently, most of my time is taken up running the multi-centre PATHOS clinical trial which I joint lead with Professor Mererid Evans, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Velindre Cancer Centre. The trial has recently been adopted by EORTC and so much of my time is currently spent co-ordinating the exciting roll-out of the trial to European centres. The trial involves the collection of fresh tumour tissue and blood and so, in parallel, much work is ongoing planning the translational research programme with some of the best cancer researchers in the UK.
What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges in cancer research?
In the field of translational research, in addition to the development of novel treatments which improve survival whilst mitigating the adverse effects of treatment, the Holy Grail is truly personalised medicine, by which each patient will receive treatment bespoke to them and their cancer.
What do you consider to be the most exciting development in cancer research at present?
‘Omics’ technology as well as immunotherapeutic treatments: Although we need to bear in mind, despite the current enthusiasm, the potential limitations of the latter.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Securing a Personal Chair in Head and Neck Surgery in the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, University of Liverpool. Appointment to a University Chair as a surgeon is an increasingly rare event – especially in the field of Otolaryngology / Head and Neck Surgery.
About the Scientific Committee
What has been the biggest challenge of being a member of the Committee?
I have only just joined the committee and so all challenges are to come!
What have you enjoyed most about being on the Committee?
I am enthused about joining the committee, spending time with some of the most impressive and influential members of the cancer research community in the UK can only be beneficial and interesting and if successful NCRI Conferences result – everyone`s a winner.
Will participants get the chance to talk with you and other members of the Committee during the Conference?
I would be more than happy to meet with participants during the conference to hear their feedback.
Looking forward to the 2017 NCRI Cancer Conference
What are you looking forward to most about this year’s Conference?
Accepting my obvious bias, the continued involvement of surgeons, particularly through the partnership with BASO ~ ACS.
What would you say to convince people to attend this year’s Conference?
The NCRI conference is an outstanding meeting for all involved in cancer research, it is impossible not to be stimulated and enthused to continue and enhance one`s efforts after attending the conference
How will attending the Conference benefit students and those in the early stages of their career?
The benefit for early career researchers is enormous. The conference provides insight into the breadth of cancer research and, perhaps more importantly, the standards to which one needs to aspire to be successful.
Why should researchers submit their work to this Conference?
It is simply a great showcase; allowing researchers to present their work to a broad congregation of like-minded enthusiasts.
If you could sum up the Conference in three words, what would it be and why?
Inspiring, fascinating, inclusive
Just for fun
What has life taught you?
That however much we strive, there are still many things we are unable to control.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Spending time with my family, particularly on holiday and ‘conversational running’ (i.e. jogging at a pace that if you can’t hold a conversation, you’re going too fast!)
Where would your dream holiday be?
Family holidays on the Isle of Skye.
Describe yourself in three words.
Focussed, strategic and realistic
Name three things you would take with you to a desert island.
A rechargeable radio
A never ending supply of sunscreen (assuming it’s tropical)
A never ending supply of 16 year old Lagavulin for those tropical sunsets