Head & Neck

Head and neck cancer occur inside the sinuses, nose, mouth and salivary glands down through the throat. Although these cancers are different, they are treated similarly, so are considered as a group. About 80% of head and neck cancer is due to the use of alcohol or tobacco. Other risk factors include infections with the human papillomavirus (HPV) or the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), being over 40 years, being male and being overweight or obese.

In 2016, 3,737 head and neck cancers were diagnosed in Australia. These figures include cancers of the tongue, gum, mouth, salivary glands, tonsils, pharynx, nasal cavity and larynx, but not cancers of the lip. In 2018, 1,109 patients have died of head and neck cancer in Australia.

Research at QIMR Berghofer is aimed at developing a better understanding of the immune response to head and neck cancers and how that information can be translated into new cancer therapies.



  • determining the impact of immunotherapies on the growth and metastasis of various types of head and neck cancer in mice
  • determining the expression of neck and nectin-like molecules in human head and neck cancers and correlating that with outcome and response to new immunotherapies
  • determining the impact of hypoxia on the adenosinergic pathways in head and neck cancers