Date: 16 April 2019
The Liverpool Head and Neck Centre (LHNC) - An Interview with Professor Terry Jones
Six months ago the Liverpool Head and Neck Centre was launched. To understand the impact this centre can have on research, the Centre's Director Professor Terry Jones gave an interview to Mr Mark Wilkie an ENT Surgeon and Audiology Research Champion for the Clinical Research Network, North West Coast.
Professor Terry Jones is Director of the LHNC, which was launched on 29th October 2018. He is a Professor of Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Liverpool and an Honorary Consultant Otolaryngologist/Head and Neck Surgeon at Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. He is also National Lead for the Head and Neck Domain of the 100,000 Genome Project, and a Senior Clinical Adviser to the National Institute of Health Research Clinical Research Network, North West Coast.
Herein, we hear from him on the launch of the LHNC, the objectives of the initiative, and the associated research opportunities.
What exactly is the LHNC?
The Centre is a far-sighted initiative, created following the formal collaboration between the University of Liverpool, Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Liverpool Health Partners. LHNC combines the strengths of the clinical units and research groups in order to create a structure and philosophy to allow the flourishing of individuals, teams, and collaborations straddling NHS and academia in all clinical subspecialty areas in the head and neck sciences.
What are the overarching objectives of the LHNC?
Firstly, to enhance quality and safety of patient care underpinned by a world-class programme of translational research in the field of head and neck sciences. Secondly, in the medium-term to secure institutional funding, probably from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), to develop an identity as a standalone institution.
What progress has been made since the recent launch of the LHNC?
The formal collaboration of the partners mentioned previously and consensus on long-term goals has brought about significant University investment into the Centre. Specifically, there is now funding in place to appoint professorial chairs in head and neck pathology and immuno-oncology; to form academic departments of palliative care and speech and language therapy and dietetics; and there is scope to appoint up to five research scientists all working on head and neck diseases.
Liverpool is long renowned for clinical and research expertise in head and neck oncology, what will the LHNC offer for other ENT subspecialties?
It is important to emphasise that the focus of the LHNC is not just head and neck oncology, but all clinical subspecialty areas in the head and neck sciences. Indeed, the structure of the Centre is outward facing and should be seen as a vehicle to drive academic and clinical advancements in these areas. For instance, collaborations have already been fostered with Liverpool John Moores University in regard to social inequalities in diseases of the head and neck, with Edge Hill University with respect to survivorship and quality of life, and with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine for the study of inflammatory rhinological conditions.
What opportunities will the LHNC present for ENT Trainees interested in research?
The LHNC is the biggest centre in the UK for the study of head and neck sciences and as such the research opportunities for trainees are wide-ranging. The academic delivery comes from the Mersey Head and Neck Oncology Research Group, which conducts studies encompassing laboratory-based translational research, early and late phase clinical trials, clinical outcomes research, and quality of life and survivorship studies. Research opportunities for trainees are available in all of these aspects and can range from small standalone studies through to complex PhD projects. The Centre also supports academic foundation, academic clinical fellow, and academic clinical lecturer positions.
What opportunities will the LHNC present for ENT collaborative research?
The Centre is already heavily involved in collaborative research with numerous healthcare partners as mentioned already, and one of the main philosophies of the Centre is collaboration. The head and neck unit at Aintree has been the highest recruiter in the country into head and neck oncology and surgery National Institute of Health Research portfolio clinical trials for the last two-three years running and the formation of the LHNC will serve only to support this further. In addition, the LHNC is the coordinating centre for the Northern Head and Neck Alliance, which is an initiative that exists under the auspices of Northern Health Science Alliance. This comprises a virtual network of head and neck units in Newcastle, Durham, Hull and York, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Lancaster, and Liverpool and will allow for seamless clinical trial recruitment and bioresource collection across geographical regions, thus providing a vehicle for further NIHR trial recruitment and delivery.
Author: Mr Mark Wilkie ST6, Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust