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New trial tackling fibrosis in cancer survivors

Researchers have started to recruit patients to a new pioneering trial that will use combination therapy to reduce fibrosis in patients with head and neck cancer (HNC).

Fibrosis is a common, permanent and adverse effect of radiotherapy, however there is currently no realistic therapeutic option nor intervention to resolve fibrosis long-term. This new study could help thousands of cancer survivors.

The ‘PIT-STOP’ trial will look at the effect of combining two medications (Pentoxifylline and Vitamin E) to reduce fibrosis in HNC survivors. Combining these medications has shown promising results in individuals who have undergone radiotherapy to the breast, pelvis, lung, and prostate. The team hope that it could also reverse or reduce fibrosis in HNC survivors. 

Explaining fibrosis, BRC supported Professor Fedele who is leading the trial said: “Fibrosis in these individuals is characterised by a hardening of mouth muscles, including those of the back of the mouth and throat. It restricts mouth opening and reduces the ability to talk, chew and swallow, which can severely impact quality of life. It can also cause malnutrition and pneumonia due to the entry of food and liquids in the respiratory tract, which can increase mortality

In UK there are around 10,000 new HNC cases each year – leading to approximately 4,200 individuals every year experiencing post-radiotherapy fibrosis. UCL Eastman researchers will recruit 40 participants in London and Liverpool for a preliminary study that will run over 3 years.

PIT-STOP is supported by a grant from NIHR Research for Patient Benefit scheme; Oral Health & Disease is one of the new themes of the NIHR UCLH BRC, which builds on the collaboration between the UCL Eastman Dental Institute and UCLH Eastman Dental Hospital. The OH&D theme is led by Professor Fedele and has a 5-year ambitious programme of experimental and translational research to tackle and reduce the burden of some of the most common and most severe oral diseases