OCT 28, 2020 1:10 PM PDT

Protecting the Head and Neck from Off Target Radiation

WRITTEN BY: Jasper Cantrell

Radiotherapy alone or with chemotherapy is the go-to treatment for head and neck cancers. Unfortunately, head and neck tissue are quite delicate, and radiotherapy, in particular, can induce a painful side effect called oral mucositis.

Oral mucositis is a common side effect of radiation therapy, as the radiation can cause off-target cellular damage. This induces an inflammatory reaction and ulceration, sometimes the patient debilitating pain. This isn’t as much of a problem in other tissue, but the lining of the throat and mouth are more sensitive to radiation-based damage than many other parts of the body.

In a new study out of Stanford University, a team of researchers decided to try and find a treatment to alleviate oral mucositis and heal the damage. A few attempts have been made in years past, but all have suffered issues in one way or another. The drug Palifermin demonstrated promising results in treating oral mucositis but was too expensive for most patients. Recombinant Keratinocyte Growth Factor (a wound-healing protein) was also used, but is unstable in saliva and could not be used.

The team settled on the molecule Heparin Binding Epidermal Growth Factor (HB-EGF) as their treatment of choice for this study. HB-EGF stimulates the same cells as the keratinocyte growth factor but would be stable in saliva. A previous study by the same team also showed it promoted wound healing. This study would focus on whether or not HB-EGF could treat radiation-induced oral mucositis in mice.

First, the team set up two groups of irradiated mice. One group of mice would be treated with a saline solution (saltwater) as a control, and the other would be treated with HB-EGF. After radiation and subsequent treatment, the HB-EGF group showed an increase in cell growth compared to the control. Follow-up experiments showed that pre-treatment and post-treatment had similar results, suggesting that it didn’t matter when the treatment was given.

HB-EGF has been used in other studies to protect sensitive tissues in the heart, brain, and other organs. This study shows that it can also be used to protect and heal the tissue of the mouth against radiation damage. The team notes that mice do not react to oral mucositis as humans, but the healing effects should be similar.

The study concludes, “This study demonstrates that locally administered HB-EGF post-irradiation significantly decreased histological findings associated with oral mucositis. HB-EGF could stimulate the proliferative response required for the regeneration of mucosal barrier function.”

Sources: Nature Scientific ReportsRoswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

About the Author
  • Hey everyone! My name is Jasper and, considering I am pretty new here to Labroots, I figured I would introduce myself. I received my bachelor’s from the University of California at Riverside back in 2016. I started off my career a few years ago with a job at a University over in New York, before moving over into the industry. I'm happy to be writing content for Labroots, and I hope you enjoy it!
You May Also Like
DEC 28, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Anti-Diarrhea Drug Kills Aggressive Brain Cancer Cells
DEC 28, 2020
Anti-Diarrhea Drug Kills Aggressive Brain Cancer Cells
Glioblastoma is a very aggressive and lethal form of brain cancer that responds poorly to chemotherapy in children and a ...
JAN 12, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Portable Sequencer Ensures All the Cancer Cells Are Gone
JAN 12, 2021
Portable Sequencer Ensures All the Cancer Cells Are Gone
Surgeons remove a tumor from the abdominal cavity of a patient. But how can they be certain that all the cancer cells we ...
JAN 24, 2021
Cancer
Decoding the "why" of the Warburg effect
JAN 24, 2021
Decoding the "why" of the Warburg effect
New research led by immunologist Ming Li from Sloan Kettering Institute unpacks a century-old mystery of cancer: why can ...
FEB 10, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Black Men Respond Best to Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer
FEB 10, 2021
Black Men Respond Best to Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer
Researchers from Northwestern University have found that Black men and men of African ancestry respond better than men f ...
FEB 04, 2021
Cancer
Microchip models tumor‐immune interactions to predict immunotherapy effectiveness
FEB 04, 2021
Microchip models tumor‐immune interactions to predict immunotherapy effectiveness
A team from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI) has developed a microchip system that models immune ...
FEB 18, 2021
Cancer
Measuring the pschological impacts of cancer and additional comorbidities
FEB 18, 2021
Measuring the pschological impacts of cancer and additional comorbidities
In a new analysis of 2017 data from the National Health Survey of Spain published in Psycho-Oncology, researchers find t ...
Loading Comments...