President's Message

Hopefully everyone has had a safe and happy Christmas and New Year and returned to work full of enthusiasm for another year of challenges. Although clearly there are challenges to face, all to frequently scientific articles or speeches lament the lack of progress in Head and Neck Cancer. I firmly believe that is untrue. Survival rates are improving, rehabilitation is better than ever, new surgical treatments, medications and radiotherapy techniques are making morbidity less and cure more likely. We even have a vaccine!

It was a great pleasure to catch up with so many of you in Auckland for the combined meeting between the ANZHNCS and IFHNOS. Again, a big thanks must go to John Chaplin and his whole team whose efforts made the event run seamlessly. Although it is an opportunity to welcome international experts to our shores a number of you in your feedback expressed the desire to return to the standard format of local and invited experts, combined with Australian and New Zealand research presentations. I can assure you that the Scientific meeting planned for Brisbane in October will satisfy that desire. In addition there will be debates, and a number of breakout sessions for special interest groups including medical, allied health and nursing. Make a date in your diaries to join us in Brisbane from the 12th to the 14th of October.

Speaking of meetings as mentioned in my letter late last year the ANZHNCS will be bidding for the international meeting to be held in 2026. I know a number of you are already putting bids together on behalf of your states and I appreciate your efforts. If there are those of you reading this who are not already on a team and wish to participate please contact the executive office and we can link you in. Irrespective of which state takes a final bid forward a meeting such as this is a major collaborative effort and will require national support.

Thank you to those of you who attended the Annual General Meeting and Extraordinary General Meeting in Auckland. The documentation has been submitted with the relevant regulatory authorities to close the “Incorporated Association” and to move forward as a “Company Limited by Guarantee”. I hope the transition for the membership will be essentially seamless. We have updated our membership database and software so that I hope membership renewal will not be plagued by some of the issues in previous years. As per our change in constitution we welcome a non health care professional to the executive by the name of Joy Williams who is volunteering her time. Joy has many years experience as a Chief Financial Officer and we hope she can continue to improve and guide our governance.

Finally as many of you will be aware World Head and Neck Cancer day is held on the 27th of July. Amongst many other activities, the ANZHNCS Foundation will be the beneficiary of a Head and Neck Charity Ball to be held on Friday the 28th of July at Riverlife in Brisbane. It would be great to see as many people there as possible for what promises to be a wonderful night.


Martin Batstone

Upcoming Meetings

Head and Neck Charity Evening Save The Date



ANZHNCS Annual Scientific Meeting 2017


Between the 12-14th October this year, Brisbane will have the opportunity to host our Annual Scientific Meeting. The theme of the meeting is Head and Neck Oncology: translating research into practice and on behalf of the convening committee I would like to invite you to join us in what will hopefully be an entertaining and educational meeting, designed to challenge our concepts of head and neck cancer management.

With the immense resources of the translational research facilities on both sides of the Brisbane River, and the new MRI and PET imaging research facility at Herston we have the opportunity to push the boundaries of our current treatment paradigms. Add to that dynamic speakers from Stanford University (Professor Quynh-Thu Le) and Memorial Sloan Kettering (Dr Luc Morris) who do an amazing amount of research themselves and we have the recipe for a great meeting.

In order to push those boundaries further, we have some novel ideas for increasing the value of the meeting to all attending with multi-disciplinary team debates, free extra sessions with the experts and realistic case presentations in the style of our own MDTs. It would be hard to plan a better location – Brisbane in spring is amazing, and the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (Australia’s most awarded) is perfectly placed in the exciting South Bank Precinct next to the Brisbane River.

We plan to release the confirmation of our Allied Health speaker soon, and with other plans in development, I encourage you to keep an eye on the website for updates and look forward to seeing you at the meeting this October.

Meeting Convenors: Dr Ryan Sommerville, Dr Benjamin Chua, Ms Bena Cartmill

Click here for a copy of the provisional program.

Auckland Head and Neck Cancer Survivors’ Support Network

The March newsletter is attached here for your reading pleasure. 



Message from Associate Professor David Wiesenfeld, Chairman ANZHNCS Research Foundation (Australia)

A new year brings new opportunities, and an opportunity to reflect on the past years performance. I am proud to report to you on the performance of the ANZHNCS Research Foundation(AUS)

Research Grants:

In 2016 we had 9 excellent applications for research funds from members.  All applications were of high standing and presented a challenge to the Research Committee led by Dr Lyndell Kelly to identify the 3 successful applicants.

Grants were awarded to:

  • Associate Professor Peter Graham University of New South Wales $10,000 - Understanding the effect of regional dosimetry and lymphoedema on swallow dysfunction.
  • Dr. Bruce Ashford Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA $5000- Unraveling genetic markers of progression and metastases in Head and Neck Cutaneous
  • Associate Professor Jonathan Clark Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA $5000- Analysis of RNA in metastatic cutaneous SCC with nanostring

Congratulations from all of us to the successful applicants, encouragement to the 6 unsuccessful applicants for resubmission in the 2017 grant round. Two of our successful applicants from 2015 reported their research findings at our Annual Scientific meeting in Auckland, Dr Tammi Yap, The University of Melbourne and Dr Kendrick Koo, The Royal Melbourne Hospital. We look forward to another round of grant awards in 2017


2016 was a very successful year for fundraising, a total of $15,430 was donated, including $6,000 from industry partner Ignyta. We had a very successful fundraising exercise at The Auckland Gala Dinner, each of the IFHNOS Speakers pledged US$1000, and encouraged members at the Dinner to contribute as well.

We are proceeding with implementation of ANZ Shout, a web and App portal for making donations in combination with The ANZ Bank. Other opportunities for positive relationships with financial organisations are being investigated.


We have scheduled a Fundraising Gala Dinner to be held in Brisbane to celebrate World Head and Neck Cancer Day on July 28th 2017. Sarah Wilson and Martin Batstone will be Convenors with the assistance of David Wiesenfeld and Ross Noye, Board Member of the Australian Foundation Board. Detailed arrangements and booking instructions will be available soon for this event.

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Research:

The Board is working with Dr. Brian Stein and families in Adelaide to establish an ACC Research Fund. The purpose is to encourage and assist in research into this all too frequent disease, which has long-term implications for patients.


Compliance with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission has been maintained, as has tax deductibility status with the ATO.

Donation forms for the Foundation can be downloaded from the ANZHNCS website, why not consider joining with us to support Australian research into Head and Neck Cancer and help us to make a difference.

Looking back at ANZHNCS ASM & IFHNOS 2016 World Tour 


Robyn Burnett – Speech Pathologist Royal Adelaide Hospital
January 2017

Robyn Burnett has been the significant contributor to speech and language therapy for Head & Neck cancer patients in South Australia. Her unexpected passing at the peak of her career and personal life is a tragedy, difficult for those of us left behind to comprehend and recover from.  

Robyn started her career as a Speech Pathologist in the mid 1990’s. She came to this profession as a mature age student having raised her beautiful daughter, the lovely Dr. Lisa Salter through early childhood. Robyn had an early career in catering and dressmaking and easily completed her training in Speech pathology with unmatched confidence.

She began her career at Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1997 after a short stint at the Hampstead Hospital working in neurological rehabilitation. A defining event within the first couple of years, was the arrival of Alison Perry, the well-known UK Speech Pathologist from Charing Cross with a strong background in Head and Neck cancer research and management. Alison came to the RAH via a job swap with then Director of Speech Pathology, Paula Bowman. Through a professional relationship and friendship, Alison encouraged Robyn’s already strong preference for Head and Neck Cancer management.

In the early days of speech therapy of “Jacks of all trades and masters of none”,  Robyn shared rosters across different clinical areas. Her passion and singular focus however, was always Head and Neck. When eventually, policy change occurred at the Department of Speech Pathology at the Royal Adelaide Hospital– Robyn was quick to claim Head and Neck/ENT as her own.

She created her own skill development pathway through determination and vision – attending relevant workshops and conferences as well as seeking overseas training directly with Dr Blom or via established clinics in the United Kingdom. Robyn quickly became the key liaison and advisor for new Blom products in Australia making recommendations for improvements. She was integral in the development and management of the Royal Adelaide Hospital Tumour Surveillance Clinic, mobile FEES (Functional Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallow) Assessments to enable bedside patient assessment and independent Speech Pathology nasendoscopy clinics .to support imaging of patient laryngeal function pre- and post-operatively. She was an innovator and leader in this across Australia with the support of her colleagues at the Department of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery at the RAH. She was committed to training Speech Pathology staff and helped develop rigorous, state-wide approved credentialing programs.

Robyn was greatly respected by her patients. It did not matter whether her patient was an upmarket professional or a down and out battler-she travelled the life journey with them from diagnosis onwards, understanding that for them, the primary aim of their treatment was survival. She helped them understand realistic outcomes and to set functional goals. Her patients describe her as dedicated, skilled, caring and most of all – genuine. They describe absolute confidence in her and appreciated her ability to give them confidence too, to go out and live a productive life after treatment.  One patient even gave her the aboriginal name of “tribal sister” and others have told us they feel so lucky to have met her and have her as part of their lives. She willingly gave out her personal mobile to patients and other speech pathologists and was always willing to answer a call even if on an overseas holiday.

Laryngectomy treatment techniques changed rapidly over the years from teaching esophageal speech, to use of artificial larynxes, to secondary tracheoesophageal fistulae procedures with delayed sizing and prosthesis insertion, right through to current practice of primary insertion of the prosthesis. Robyn not only changed with the times, she brought many of the changes to SA.  Robyn’s approach was to give them education, empower them to make the correct choices FOR THEM and keep them swallowing throughout treatment – the best therapy was to keep doing what they usually did as much as possible. Robyn also lamented the one size fits all approach and subscribed to the belief that no two patients and no two outcomes were ever the same.

Robyn was never one to blow her own trumpet. However, she really was a pioneer for Speech Pathology in the management of Head and Neck cancer recovery.  She was involved in several research projects including Swallowing Function after Treatment for Tongue Base Cancer, Voice Quality after Radiotherapy of Early Laryngeal Cancer and Outcomes of a Speech Pathology Led Nasendoscopy Clinic. She contributed to the book - “Head and Neck Cancer- Treatment, Rehabilitation and Outcomes” in 2007, reflecting on patterns of clinical care for patients following laryngectomy in Australia. She was a regular lecturer to Speech Pathology students at Flinders University however preferred the “old fashioned” face to face style of lecturing where students could ask questions in this “out of the box” area, rather than the virtual video recorded lecture . She was a strong advocate for advanced treatment planning for patients, contributing significantly to patient pathway developments such as the prophylactic use of PEGs during non-surgical treatment.

To her colleagues and her patients she was the ultimate professional and dedicated clinician.

To us all she was just Robyn – our “larger than life”, “call a spade a spade”, side splittingly funny, sometimes inappropriate (to the naïve observer) and disregarder of the “politically correct”.

Always in elegant dress, able to combine bling and amazing shoes, extraordinarily skilled as the baker, the seamstress, the designer, the interior decorator, the shopper (David Jones is the mother ship), the chair of the “very fast” staff meeting, the clinical/social/child rearing and relationship advisor, the one who kept us grounded – our much loved colleague, and deeply missed friend.

Condolences to Patrick, daughter Lisa, son in law Pip and grand-daughter Winnie and family.

“Great souls never pass, they live on in the hearts of those who love them”

Ellen Mills and Suren Krishnan

Executive Committee Members 2016-2017

President A/Prof Martin Batstone
Immediate Past President Dr Kerwin Shannon
Vice President A/Prof Julia Maclean
Secretary Dr Tim Iseli
Treasurer Dr Michael Collins

Dr John Chaplin, Dr Richard Lewis, Dr Nicholas Marshall, Dr Tsien Fua, Dr Brian Stein, Dr James Bowman     


Nominating Committee
Dr Kerwin Shannon (Chair), Dr Janelle Heywood, A/Prof Martin Batstone

Grant Subcommittee
A/Prof Julia Maclean (Chair), Dr Tim Iseli, Dr Kerwin Shannon

MDT Subcommittee
A/Prof Martin Batstone (Chair), A/Prof Julia Maclean        

Membership Subcommittee        
Dr Tim Iseli (Chair), A/Prof Julia Maclean

Research Subcommittee
Dr Richard Lewis (Chair), Dr Kerwin Shannon, Dr Michael Collins

PR & Website Subcommittee
A/Prof Martin Batstone (Chair), Dr Nicholas Marshall, Dr Brian Stein, Dr Kerwin Shannon

Awards Subcommittee        
A/Prof Martin Batstone (Chair), Dr Kerwin Shannon, Dr Michael Collins