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Head Neck. 2012 Oct;34(10):1428-33. doi: 10.1002/hed.21935. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

Murine model of neuromuscular electrical stimulation on squamous cell carcinoma: potential implications for dysphagia therapy.

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Head and Neck Service, Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA.



Dysphagia is a potential consequence of treatment for head and neck cancer. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) has evolved as a treatment option, with the goal of improved swallow function in patients with chronic dysphagia. However, the effects of NMES on tumorigenicity are unknown and often confound the initiation of this therapy, potentially limiting its efficacy in treating patients with head and neck cancer.


Squamous cell carcinoma was grown in the flank of athymic, nude mice. Mice were randomized into treatment and control groups; the experimental group received daily NMES directly to the flank for 8 days.


Tumor volumes, recorded on days 0, 3, 7, and 10, demonstrated no significant differences between groups on each day of measurement. Immunohistochemical analysis of apoptosis, proliferation, and vascularization also failed to demonstrate statistically significant differences between treated and untreated groups.


NMES does not promote the growth of underlying tumor in our model. These data may provide preliminary evidence that applying electrical stimulation over the muscles of the anterior neck does not increase the risk of tumorigenicity. Early initiation of NMES in this challenging population may be feasible from an oncologic standpoint.

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