Barts Charity sets up new £2.6 million centre for squamous cancer

Barts Charity, which works alongside Barts Health NHS Trust hospitals and Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, has announced that there will be a new cancer centre in east London.

The centre, funded by a £2.6 million grant from the charity, will focus on squamous cancer – specifically on improving survival rates and the quality of life of those who have been diagnosed with it, as well as exploring who is most at risk of developing it.

Squamous cancer is “a specific type of cancer which affects the mouth, skin, lungs and cervix”, according to the charity, which says it is also the most common cause of solid tumours and that over 70,000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer in the UK, every year.

The Barts Centre for Squamous Cancer will also concentrate on mouth cancer which, according to Barts Charity, is a “common problem among the local east London population”.

The charity reports that over 8,700 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer every year – an increase of 58% over the past decade – but that only one in five people recognise its symptoms.

As per the NHS, these symptoms can include panful mouth ulcers that do not heal over several weeks, unexplained and persistent lumps in the mouth or neck, unexplained loose teeth or sockets, persistent numbness, patches in the mouth, pain or difficulty with swallowing or jaw movement, changes to your voice, and bleeding in the mouth.

The new centre, which will be based at The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London, will “bring together clinical and research experts” who will “work with patient groups, run clinical trials, and build a human tissue bank to improve knowledge and understanding of squamous cancer.”

Paul Coulthard, Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Oral cancer has been underfunded for many years, and we hope that by bringing our expertise together in this new centre we will be able to develop a better understanding of mouth cancer. Awareness of risk factors and symptoms is still very low, and we hope our work will improve detection, diagnosis, and access to treatment.

“We know that the risk of being diagnosed with oral cancer is strongly associated with social deprivation, and this is a particular health challenge in London. This centre will enable us to develop a much better understanding of who is at risk and why, so that we can improve treatment and the quality of life for all those affected, both in the UK and wider afield.”