Gene therapy–giving patients working versions of genes to correct disease-causing defects–is showing tremendous promise for treating a variety of serious health problems including cancer. Could this pioneering therapy work for chronic dry mouth?

Bruce Baum, DMD, PhD, an emeritus scientist at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a branch of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, believes it can. Based on the success a colleague had in using gene therapy in the lungs of mice, Dr. Baum thought it might work on the salivary gland because of its biological similarities to the lung, according to a science report posted in January 2018 on the nicdr.nih.gov website.

After many years of research, Dr. Baum came up with an intriguing process that uses a modified virus to deliver a corrective gene directly into the salivary gland to restore the flow of saliva. Dr. Baum’s research has now gone from concept to clinical trial.

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Gene Therapy For Dry Mouth

This is huge news for people who have been treated by radiation therapy for cancer of the head and neck. While these patients may have survived the cancer, they are often left with chronic dry mouth, a side effect of the radiation. In some cases, the salivary gland can be shut down completely. As anyone who has suffered from dry mouth knows, radiation not only kills the tumor cells, it also kills the healthy saliva-producing cells, leaving them difficulties with tasting, chewing, swallowing and even simply talking.

NIDCR is seeking volunteers for the clinical trial. You must be 18 or over and have dry mouth after receiving radiation therapy for head and neck cancer. Details of the clinical trial can be found at ClinicalTrials.gov.

For more information on Dr. Baum’s work and other details of the therapy and clinical trial, click on the following link: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/ResearchResults/ScienceBriefs/2018/january/pioneering-gene-therapy-for-dry-mouth.htm

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