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Semin Oncol. 2004 Dec;31(6 Suppl 18):29-36.

Radiotherapy-induced salivary dysfunction.

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  • 1Department of Oral Medicine and the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research, New York University College of Dentistry, New York, NY 10010-4086, USA.


Dry mouth (xerostomia) is one of the most common complaints following radiation therapy (RT) for head and neck cancers. Notably, RT causes irreparable damage to salivary glands that increases the risk for severe and long-term oral and pharyngeal disorders. Several strategies in the treatment of head and neck cancers have been developed to prevent RT-induced salivary dysfunction while providing definitive oncologic therapy. These include salivary-sparing RT; cytoprotectants (such as amifostine); combination therapy of high-dose-rate intraoperative RT, external beam RT, plus a cytoprotectant; salivary gland surgical transfer; and gene therapy. Future research that incorporates biologic, pharmacologic, and technologic advancements that optimize therapeutic ratios and minimizes adverse oral sequelae is warranted.

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