Cancer patients are treated with stem cells from their own salivary glands

UMCG

NOS news

This week, the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) treated a patient with stem cells from his own salivary glands. UMCG claims to be the first hospital in the Netherlands to perform this treatment.

Last Wednesday, a 43-year-old man was treated. A tumor on the tongue was discovered earlier this year. He underwent surgery at UMCG during which part of his salivary glands were also removed. Stem cells were cultured from removed salivary glands.

With those cultured mini salivary glands, or salivary gland organoids, the man injected his own cells back. This should get him working salivary glands again and not suffer from dry mouth.

Each year, about 2,500 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer, the hospital writes. Many patients can be cured with radiation, but in 40 percent of them, the salivary glands do not work properly after treatment.

As a result, they suffer from dry mouth, they have difficulty chewing and swallowing and their taste decreases. Speaking is also often difficult and the teeth are damaged.

Follow-up study

“This study should serve as a ‘proof of principle’ that such treatment is feasible and safe. If we see a positive effect, in a follow-up study we will treat patients with other tumor sites. Dry mouth after radiotherapy,” says Coppens.

“If successful, the so-called organoid technology could be applied to other tissues as well.”

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