19th Apr 2016

Study shows scanner can save thousands from scalpel


New research in which I am proud to have been involved shows that using a scanner rather than a scalpel could save thousands of head and neck cancer patients from having to undergo planned surgery.

The research has just been published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine and has already been picked up in other medical publications and welcomed by the Government.

The five-year study was based on 564 patients with advanced cancer, and carried out at a number of cancer centres in the UK including The Royal Marsden Hospital.

Head and neck cancers are treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In many cases a operation is also required to visually check that the cancer has been removed.

This operation can take up to three hours and the patient will normally need a week in hospital to recover.

Our study showed that using a PET-CT scanner was just as effective as surgery in detecting if the cancer had been removed – and there was no difference in survival rates.

Using the PET-CT scanner also saved the health service £1,492 per patient in costs – not to mention the stress of a major medical procedure and the reduced risk of complications from surgery.

In the vast majority of cases, patients receiving a PET-CT scan, which involves a very small amount of radioactive dye, are able to go home immediately afterwards and the risk of any problems associated with it are very small.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman has commented: “This exciting trial has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people with head and neck cancer, meaning that they may not have to undergo an extremely stressful medical procedure.”

The study is indeed a significant step forward in cancer care and excitingly it also holds the prospect of being able to apply the approach to other types of cancer worldwide for the benefit potentially of millions of patients.

For more information about Prof Nutting's work please visit the CV page, get in touch or arrange a consultation.