Outside of drinking plenty of water or avoiding foods that can induce dry mouth, Dr. Randy Kimple notes that there are very few effective treatments for patients who experience cancer treatment-related dry mouth.
Patients who have received treatment for head and neck cancer often experience radiation-induced dry mouth. There are very few effective treatments, Dr. Randy Kimple notes, for this severe treatment-related side effect outside of drinking plenty of water or avoiding foods that are dry.
“Although dry mouth seems like, ‘oh well just drink a little bit of water,’ that's great for people who their dry mouth is caused by being nervous, but it doesn't work for people who have suffered through cancer and have undergone radiation, surgery, potentially chemotherapy, and then after conquering all these other issues are now living with this for the rest of their life,” said Kimple, an associate professor in the Department of Human Oncology and radiation oncologist at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, in an interview with CURE®. “We need to do better for them.”
In the interview, Kimple also provided insight into a new regenerative therapy that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gave approval to test in clinical trials to treat radiation-induced xerostomia, also known as dry mouth.
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Everybody's had dry mouth at some point, right, you have a cold and your saliva gets a little thick or you're in a really arid, dry environment and your mouth is a little dry, and your tongue sort of sticks to your lips and onto the top of your mouth a little bit when you speak. Imagine that, (but) with no moisture in your mouth, or when the saliva is so thick that you could blow bubbles with it.
And then imagine having that every day for the rest of your life. In the three weeks since we first put out, sort of an announcement that the FDA had granted this, I've had a number of patients reach out to me from around the country, or their doctors and say, ‘thank goodness, there's something coming down the pipeline because I don't have anything to offer my patients and they are fed up, they're depressed, they're unable to work because they don't make enough saliva to you know, carry on a customer service type job that they were in.’
Although dry mouth seems like ‘oh well just drink a little bit of water,’ that's great for people who their dry mouth is caused by being nervous, but it doesn't work for people who have suffered through cancer and have undergone radiation, surgery, potentially chemotherapy, and then after conquering all these other issues are now living with this for the rest of their life, and we need to do better for them, but it's an unmet need that we hope we can find a good solution for.