Researchers at the University College London Eastman Dental Institute are investigating the effect of combining Pentoxifylline and vitamin E to reduce soft tissue fibrosis of the mouth, which is a common, permanent, and adverse effect of radiotherapy, in head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors. The preliminary study will recruit 40 subjects in London and Liverpool and run for three years.
“Fibrosis in these individuals is characterized by a hardening of mouth muscles, including those of the back of the mouth and throat. It restricts mouth opening and reduces the ability to talk, chew, and swallow, which can severely impact quality of life,” said lead researcher Stefano Fedele, DMD, professor of oral medicine.
“It can also cause malnutrition and pneumonia due to the entry of food and liquids in the respiratory tract, which can increase mortality. HNC survivors who have defeated their cancers are often left with this chronic condition caused by their life-saving, anti-cancer therapy, and there is no realistic therapeutic option, no intervention that has proven to be effective in the long term,” Fedele said.
There are approximately 10,000 new HNC cases in the United Kingdom each year, leading to about 4,200 individuals experiencing post-radiotherapy fibrosis. Co-administration of Pentoxifylline and vitamin E has had promising results in individuals irradiated to the breast, pelvis, lung, and prostate. The researchers hope that it could also reverse or reduce fibrosis in HNC survivors.