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Support head and neck cancer research

Over the past decade, tongue cancer has increased two to four-fold in young people under 45. The head and neck team at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse are investigating why.

The head and neck service at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is the pre-eminent head and neck service in Australia. Led by Associate Professor Carsten Palme, it brings together over 40 highly-skilled surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, specialist nurses, dentists, speech therapists, dieticians and research scientists—whose primary aim is to provide the best possible treatment for people with cancer of the head and neck.

World first research into tongue cancer

Over the past decade, tongue cancer has increased two to four-fold in young people under 45. Alarmingly, this increase has occurred independently from factors normally linked with this disease, such as smoking and alcohol consumption.

The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse head and neck cancer  team are performing world-first research into the impact of mutations in DNA on the development of tongue cancer in young people.

Research to date has only examined the coding regions of DNA, which is a 2-3% portion of the human genome. Our researchers hypothesise that the driver in tongue cancer in young people lies in the non-coding or ‘junk’ DNA.

Philanthropic support of this project has funded the analysis and computational modelling on the whole genome from 20 tongue cancer patients. For each patient, the team is looking to find what has changed in their cancer sample, compared to the normal sample. The team identifies patterns of change, whether they occur across the patient sample and if there are chromosomal commonalities amongst patients.

The analysis is in early stages but has already produced some interesting results—the team has discovered a genome duplication in 30% of samples tested. This crucial finding brings us much closer to understanding the causes of tongue cancer in young people where there is an absence of known risk factors.  

This project is just one of many that our head and neck team are working on to help lessen the impact of cancer on Australians. You can support research like this by making a donation today.