Scottish Head and Neck Conference

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Dr Emma King is CRUK Senior Lecturer Head and Neck Surgery within Medicine at the University of Southampton.


Emma King is an Academic Head and Neck surgeon. Her PhD and specialist training were completed in the UK before travelling to Toronto for 2 years for fellowship training in both ablative and reconstructive Head and Neck surgery. Her time is now divided between the University of Southampton for basic science and translational research in head and neck cancer and her clinical commitments in Poole and Bournemouth NHS Hospitals as a Consultant Head and Neck Surgeon.



BMSc (First Class Honours) University of Dundee (1992)

MBChB University of Dundee (1995)

MRCS, Royal College of Surgeons, London (1998)

PhD, University of Bristol (2002)

FRCS-Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Royal college of Surgeons, London (2006)


Appointments held

2010 CRUK Senior Lecturer Head and Neck Surgery, University of Southampton


2009 Consultant Head and Neck Surgeon, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust


2007-2009 Head and Neck Clinical Fellow, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Canada.


2002-2007 Otorhinolaryngology Specialist Registrar, Wessex Region.



Research interests

Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC) is the 6th commonest cancer worldwide, with over 600 000 new cases diagnosed annually. It accounts for 3% of new cancers and 2% of cancer deaths annually in the USA. The major aetiological factor in the development of head and neck cancer (including oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, OPSCC) is cigarette smoking (particularly when combined with heavy alcohol intake). However, over the last decade there has been a striking increase in the number of OPSCC cases, particularly in young non-smokers/non-drinkers. The cause of the increased incidence in this patient cohort appears to be human papillomavirus-16 (HPV-16), which accounts for approximately 25-50% of OPSCC. Interestingly, patients with HPV-driven OPSCC have significantly better overall survival that those that have HPV-negative disease (82.4% versus 57.1% at 3 years). Although it is suggested that improved survival is related to the increased chemo/radiosensitivity of such tumours, our preliminary data show that HPV-driven OPSCC are commonly associated with a significant adaptive T-cell response, and that patients with such a response have significantly improved survival. Interestingly, although most of the HPV-driven tumours we examined were associated with a prominent T-cell infiltrate, this was not invariably the case, raising the possibility that HPV-driven tumours may be further stratified by the presence or absence of an immune response, and that this may be more effective at predicting outcome than HPV-positivity alone. We hypothesise that the improved survival associated with HPV-driven OPSCC is related to the host adaptive immune response.


We are generating a database of all head and neck cancers across the south coast (Southampton, Poole and Portsmouth) for the past 10 years. We are evaluating the immunological infiltrate on archived pathology specimens and correlating this with HPV status and survival. In addition we are collecting blood and tissue samples from all new head and neck cancers in the region.

Dr Emma King