Gene Therapy for Radiation-Induced Salivary Hypofunction
Often patients who have radiation-induced salivary hypofunction are told by their surgeons or oncologists that they should be happy “they are cured” and not complain about a “minor side effect,” i.e., a small problem such as having too little saliva due to their cancer treatment. Even patients for whom gene or pharmacological therapy are not options benefit greatly from a clinician’s attention and careful instructions on how to care for their oral health and how to chew and swallow deliberately.
It must be recognized that gene therapy is still in its developmental stages. The vectors used now to transfer genes into salivary glands and other tissues doubtless will be viewed as primitive in one to two decades.
Indeed, it may be feasible within a decade or so to prevent radiation damage to healthy salivary glands using gene transfer technology alone or in conjunction with improved advanced radiotherapy techniques and/or pharmacological agents.
I am extremely grateful to the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research for supporting my research and enabling everything that is mentioned in this chapter. I am also extremely grateful to my many wonderful colleagues at NIH and elsewhere who worked so hard to make a 1991 vision into a clinical reality.
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