A Phase I–II study in the use of acupuncture-like transcutaneous nerve stimulation in the treatment of radiation-induced xerostomia in head-and-neck cancer patients treated with radical radiotherapy
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PURPOSE: Recent studies have suggested that acupuncture may improve radiation-induced xerostomia with an increase in the median salivary flow rate and sustained symptom relief. An acupuncture-like transcutaneous nerve stimulation method (Codetron) without invasive needles was developed to mimic acupuncture treatment. This Phase I-II study examined the effectiveness of Codetron in treating radiation-induced xerostomia. METHODS AND MATERIALS: Patients with symptomatic xerostomia after radical radiotherapy for head-and-neck cancer but with evidence of residual salivary function were recruited into the study. Two 6-week courses of Codetron treatment of acupuncture points preselected according to traditional Chinese medicine principles were given with a 2-week break between each course. Basal and citric acid-primed whole saliva production were measured at baseline and up to 1 year after treatment completion. Xerostomia symptoms were assessed by a five-item xerostomia symptom questionnaire with a visual analog scale and quality of life was evaluated using the Head and Neck Radiotherapy Questionnaire. RESULTS: We enrolled 46 patients in the study. All patients had received radiotherapy doses of >or=50 Gy to bilateral head-and-neck fields, including the parotid glands. Of the 46 patients, 37 completed the follow-up assessments at 3 and 6 months after treatment completion. No Codetron treatment-related complications occurred. Improvement in xerostomia symptoms was noted, with a mean increase in the visual analog scale score of 86 (p < 0.0005) and 77 (p < 0.0001) at 3 and 6 months after treatment completion, respectively. For all patients, the increase in the mean basal and citric acid-primed whole saliva production at 3 and 6 months after treatment completion was also statistically significant (p < 0.001 and p < 0.0001, respectively). No statistically significant change in the quality-of-life evaluation compared with baseline was observed. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that Codetron treatment improves whole saliva production and related symptoms in patients with radiation-induced xerostomia. The treatment effects were sustained for at least 6 months after Codetron treatment completion. A prospective randomized Phase III trial with appropriate controls is being planned.
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