Laser Therapy Reduces Oral Mucositis in Head and Neck Cancer

Posted on August 18th, 2011 by

The use of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) may reduce the incidence and severity of oral mucositis caused by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy among patients with head and neck cancer. These results were presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Treatment for head and neck cancer typically includes radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. A common side effect of treatment for head and neck cancer is oral mucositis (OM), which is the irritation and inflammation of the lining of the mouth. Mucositis is associated with pain (which can interfere with eating and swallowing) and can lead to infection. If mucositis becomes severe, treatment may be delayed or doses reduced, which may lead to suboptimal outcomes from therapy.

LLLT has been evaluated for the treatment and prevention of mucositis among patients with head and neck cancer undergoing radiation and/or chemotherapy, demonstrating potential promise for reducing severity and incidence of oral mucositis in this group of patients. The laser is directed at affected areas of the mouth and is thought to stimulate healing.

Researchers from Brazil recently conducted a Phase III trial to evaluate LLLT in reducing the incidence and severity of OM in head and neck cancer patients. This trial included 94 patients who were treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. One group received LLLT and the other group received a placebo (inactive substitute).

  • Severe OM occurred in 48% of the placebo group and 6% of the LLLT group.
  • Mouth sores occurred in 83% of the placebo group and 49% of the LLLT group.
  • Patients in the LLLT group experienced significantly less pain, fatigue, problems swallowing, and emotional disturbances than those in the placebo group. Importantly, not one patient in the LLLT group had a reduction or delay in treatment.

These results suggest that LLLT may reduce OM among head and neck cancer patients.  Direct comparisons of LLLT to other treatments for OM are warranted.

Reference: Antunes H, Herchenhorn C, Arajugo E, et al. Phase III trial of low-level laser therapy to prevent induced oral mucositis in head and neck cancer patients submitted to concurrent chemoradiation. Paper presented at: 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology; June 3-7, 2011; Chicago, IL. Abstract LBA5524.

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Tags: General Head and Neck Cancer, Head and Neck Cancer, News

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