The patient is a 43-year-old man. The stem cells from his glands were grown up and then returned via an injection, explains Groningen Professor of Radiotherapy Rob Coppes. The treatment should ensure that the salivary glands will work again soon and the man will no longer suffer from a dry mouth.
According to the hospital, about 2500 people in the Netherlands get cancer in the head and neck area every year. A large proportion have a good chance of recovery with radiation, but in 40 percent the salivary glands no longer work properly after treatment. They suffer from a dry mouth, have difficulty chewing and swallowing, have difficulty speaking and suffer from damage to their teeth.
Professor Coppes has been researching salivary gland stem cell transplantation for years. A few more patients will be treated with it at the beginning of next year. Coppes: “We then hope to be able to determine later next year whether the treatment is successful with the patients.”
KWF Cancer Control, which largely financed this project through its donors, says it is very proud of this new development. “Fortunately, more and more people are surviving cancer, but we see and hear that many people still have complaints and find it difficult to cope with life after the disease. This new treatment can ensure that head and neck cancer patients who have undergone irradiation have a much better quality of life. We therefore hope that this study can demonstrate that the treatment works and that it will be available to all patients in a few years.