A compound found in citrus oils could help alleviate dry mouth caused by radiation therapy in head and neck cancer patients, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The compound, called d-limonene, protected cells that produce saliva in mice exposed to radiation therapy — without diminishing the tumor-fighting effects of the radiation. The researchers, led by graduate student Julie Saiki, also showed that d-limonene taken orally is transported to the salivary gland in humans.
The study will be published online May 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The finding was possible because of a close collaboration between clinicians and basic scientists, said co-senior author Daria Mochly-Rosen, PhD, professor of chemical and systems biology. “This is a perfect example of two pieces that could not work alone.”
“Stanford is a fertile ground for collaboration,” added Quynh-Thu Le, co-senior author and professor and chair of radiation oncology.
About 40 percent of head and neck cancer patients who receive radiation therapy develop dry mouth, known clinically as xerostomia. It’s more than uncomfortable: patients struggle to speak and swallow and are more likely to develop oral pain or dental cavities, and the condition can lead to tooth removal
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