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Southampton's 'soft' laser therapy set for national trial
A £1.2 million study to help prevent side effects in adult patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer is to be trialled nationwide.
Approximately 4,000 people a year in England and Wales receive chemoradiotherapy for head and neck cancer, with more than 90 per cent suffering from severe soreness in the mouth and throat, dry mouth and swallowing problems. Such side effects can also lead to hospital admissions to manage symptoms and, in some cases, interrupt radiotherapy.
Jointly led by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the study will involve 380 patients at 10 sites across the UK.
Low level laser therapy (LLLT), or photomedicine, was first used as a way of healing tissue in the mouth and throat during the course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment by Dr Shanmugasundaram Ramkumar, a consultant clinical oncologist at Southampton General Hospital, in 2015. LLLT is a drug-free treatment that stimulates damaged cells using a low energy laser beam to reduce pain and inflammation and is more commonly used to treat musculoskeletal problems such as tendon, bone and nerve damage.
Ramkumar said: “There is emerging evidence of the efficacy of LLLT as a treatment for OM, however, it is not the standard of care in the NHS. Other than through a small pilot project funded by the NHS England regional innovation fund in Southampton, LLLT remains unavailable to NHS patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer. If shown to be effective in this large multi-centre study, it could radically change the management of this group of patients in the UK and worldwide.”