Findings of ground-breaking new surgical trial on mouth cancer published

17 December 2019

Findings recently published in the British Journal of Cancer show that removing the neck glands of patients at the same time as removing their small cancer in the mouth significantly improves their chances of cure.

The results are thanks to a national trial, which University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) recruited 28 patients to, that is the first-ever nationwide study to compare two different surgical treatments for early mouth cancer.

Overall, 614 patients were recruited across 27 hospitals, with the results expected to be applied to hospitals across the country.

The findings clear up a longstanding medical dilemma which has never been completely resolved over many years to the satisfaction of national guidelines and expert surgeons. This UK-first has succeeded in studying enough patients to influence national guidelines.

Prav Praveen, Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at the Trust, said “I’m delighted that the SEND trial results, which has the potential to save thousands of lives around the world, have now been published.

I’d like to thank everyone involved at UHB, including consultant and nursing colleagues and all 28 patients here who took part.”

Commenting on the findings, Professor Iain Hutchison, who co-wrote the paper with Professor Allan Hackshaw, research staff at Saving Faces and 32 surgeons:

“Mouth cancer is often neglected when it comes to research into finding better ways of treating it. We now have clarity over an issue which has vexed surgeons for over 20 years about how best to treat patients with small cancers who may have undetectable tiny cancer deposits in their neck glands. The results show that removing the lymph glands at the same time as the mouth tumour almost halves the chance of the cancer coming back or the patient dying. If all patients who are eligible for this operation have it, it could save 21,000 lives worldwide every year.”

“Surgeons now have reliable evidence about the risks and benefits of removing the neck glands in early stage mouth cancer. This provides better information to help surgeons and patients make decisions about their treatment. This is a good day for mouth cancer patients”.

The research also examined emotional, social and functional outcomes. There were no more frequent serious side effects or significant sociological disturbance to having the extra surgery of neck gland removal.