Research ArticleCancer

Sparing the region of the salivary gland containing stem cells preserves saliva production after radiotherapy for head and neck cancer

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Science Translational Medicine  16 Sep 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 305, pp. 305ra147
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac4441

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Preserving saliva flow after radiotherapy

Radiotherapy for head and neck cancer may damage the salivary glands, resulting in reduced salivation with consequent xerostomia (dry mouth). Xerostomia affects the quality of life of patients with head and neck cancer. van Luijk and co-workers reported the location of salivary (parotid) gland stem cells in the mouse, rat, and human. Next, they showed in rat and human that irradiation of the salivary gland region containing the highest number of stem cells resulted in the greatest loss of saliva production after treatment. Finally, the authors showed that it is possible to avoid irradiation of this specific area during therapy, which may reduce the patient’s risk of developing post-radiotherapy xerostomia.

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