Rhona Beynon

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

I was working as an intern at the Bristol Biomedical Research Unit in Nutrition, Diet & lifestyle, when a Wellcome Trust PhD position became available here in the School of Social & Community Medicine (SSCM). During my internship, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to get involved in a few of the studies that were/are being run in collaboration with the SSCM. I was aware therefore, of the quality and impact of the research being conducted here, as evidenced by the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) report. I was particularly attracted by the one-plus-three year structure of the programme being offered by the school. I do not come from an epidemiology background-my BSC was in zoology and my MSc was in biomedical science research, so this structure will provide me with the relevant skills that I will need to complete my main PhD project.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

The focus of my research is head and neck cancer (HNC). HNC describes cancers arising from the mouth (oral cavity), voice box (larynx), throat/upper gullet (pharynx), salivary glands, nose and sinuses, primary bone tumours of the jaw and middle ear. Approximately 8000 new cases of HNC are diagnosed in England and Wales each year. Although progresses have been made in terms of diagnosing and treating these cancers, survival remains poor. For instance, five year relative survival for larynx cancer is around 66% and oral cavity 58%. During my PhD, I will be looking to identify biological and lifestyle predictors of outcomes in people with head and neck cancer. I will be using data collected from the Head and neck 5000 study, a UK-wide clinical cohort study in people with HNC, which is run by researchers from Bristol University.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

One of the eventual aims of my PhD would be to produce a clinical prediction rule that could be used by clinicians to make treatment decisions and help people with HNC make more informed choices. In terms of my future career plans, I really hope that I can continue working in the field of cancer research. I am especially interested in early detection and prevention. I hope that I can produce research that will contribute towards effective prevention programmes and encourage positive behavioural change.

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