Research Finds Botox May Reduce ‘Dry Mouth’ Following Radiation Therapy

A researcher at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has found that botulinum toxin (Botox) protects the salivary glands in mice, reducing the impact of “dry mouth” following radiation therapy.

“A drug used primarily for cosmetic skin treatments may also have the potential to reduce radiation toxicity and improve the quality of life for cancer survivors,” said Youssef Zeidan, M.D, Ph.D., a Sylvester member and assistant professor of radiation oncology.

Zeidan was the primary author of a laboratory study, “Botulinum Toxin Confers Radioprotection in Murine Salivary Glands,” published recently in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology with co-authors from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dry mouth or xerostomia is a common chronic side effect in some patients with cancers of the head or neck whose salivary glands incur collateral damage from unavoidable radiation doses. The common consequences include dry mouth, difficulty chewing and swallowing, change in taste, dental issues and sleep disturbances.

“We have many techniques at Sylvester to minimize the dose to the salivary glands, but even with our advanced technology, we can’t spare the glands in every patient,” said Zeidan. “One of my main goals as a researcher is to improve the quality of life for our patients, and this study may provide the foundation for clinical research on this novel use of Botox.”

In this study, mice whose salivary glands were injected with Botox had significantly lower levels of inflammation from radiation, compared with a control group. Most important, the mice given Botox had only a modest reduction in saliva flow, and were protected from weight and histopathological changes induced by ionizing radiation.

Zeidan plans to continue his studies of Botox as a potential new strategy for protecting the salivary glands.

“We hope that further research will lead to the development of an effective clinical remedy for dry mouth,” he said.

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