A recent study conducted in Groningen, The Netherlands, may prove to be the Holy Grail for cancer survivors, since the vast majority are living with significantly compromised salivary function. Radiation treatments often have much of the major salivary glands within the field of radiation. This is deadly to the delicate glands. What follows is an abstract of some very promising work that may improve the quality of life for these survivors.
Head and neck cancer is the fifth most common malignancy and accounts for 3% (not a U.S. statistic) of all new cancer cases each year. Despite relatively high survival rates, the quality of life of these patients is severely compromised because of radiation-induced impairment of salivary gland function and consequential xerostomia (dry mouth syndrome).
In this study, a clinically applicable method for the restoration of radiation-impaired salivary gland function using salivary gland stem cell transplantation was developed. Salivary gland cells were isolated from murine submandibular glands and cultured in vitro as salispheres, which contained cells expressing the stem cell markers Sca-1, c-Kit and Musashi-1. In vitro, the cells differentiated into salivary gland duct cells and mucin and amylase producing acinar cells. Stem cell enrichment was performed by flow cytrometric selection using c-Kit as a marker. In vitro, the cells differentiated into amylase producing acinar cells.
In vivo, intra-glandular transplantation of a small number of c-Kit(+) cells resulted in long-term restoration of salivary gland morphology and function. Moreover, donor-derived stem cells could be isolated from primary recipients, cultured as secondary spheres and after re-transplantation ameliorate radiation damage. Our approach is the first proof for the potential use of stem cell transplantation to functionally rescue salivary gland deficiency.
IM Lombaert, JF Brunsting, PK Wierenga, H Faber, MA Stokman, T Kok, WH Visser, HH Kampinga, G de Haan, and RP Coppes