The broad goal of our research is development of an effective Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) approach to prevent mucositis or lessen its severity and complications. Oral mucositis (OM) is a clinically challenging and debilitating side effect of conventional radiotherapy (RT), affecting almost all patients undergoing RT for head and neck cancer. OM includes inflammation of the oral mucosa with or without opportunistic microbial infection. It ranges from mild erythema to severe ulceration accompanied by persistent pain leading to inability to tolerate or swallow food and fluids. OM frequently causes unwanted cancer treatment dose reductions or breaks in therapy. Despite use of pain medications, severe OM is associated with substantially increased use of costly health care resources. Presently, there are no effective treatments for OM. The primary aim of the current proposal is to determine whether or not a mouthrinse containing an herbal extract with known anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial medicinal properties, will reduce the severity of oral mucositis in cancer patients undergoing conventional radiotherapy to the head and neck. Because of the prominent inflammatory and microbial aspects of OM we anticipate that the herbal mouthrinse will reduce the severity of the pain and secondary infections associated with OM, and will improve the quality of life in head and neck cancer patients undergoing RT. Therefore, the specific aims of our Phase II double- blind, randomized, controlled trial are 1) to determine if the severity of oral mucositis is reduced in RT patients receiving the herbal mouthrinse compared to patients receiving the comparison mouthrinse and 2) to determine the effects of the herbal mouthrinse on the microbial environment of the oral cavity and on quality of life. Findings from this study will provide evidence to support more in-depth biological assessment of the anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial mechanisms by which the herbal extract reduces oral mucositis, and additional study in other populations experiencing mucositis.
The costs of cancer treatment side effects are considerable, both in terms of quality of life, and economic impact. The proposed research is relevant to public health because as more people receive cancer treatment, more also experience mucositis, a painful and debilitating side effect of cancer treatment with no effective interventions. The proposed study tests the efficacy of a novel herbal mouthrinse to treat oral mucositis in head and neck cancer patients receiving radiotherapy.