Bluestone Trials

Oral Health Complications in Head and Neck Radiation for Cancer

The purpose of this research study is to learn about oral health problems that may happen after radiation for head and neck cancer.
Status: Ongoing, enrollment of subjects completed.

Understanding what happens after radiation may help dentists provide better dental care before and after radiation. This research could help future patients who have radiation therapy (RT) for head and neck cancer. It is also possible that no benefit will come from this study. If you are 18 and older and have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer, and intend to receive RT with curative intent (tumor eradication), with or without concomitant chemotherapy, you may qualify to participate in a research study at the NYU Bluestone Center for Clinical Research. Research participants must have at least 1 natural tooth remaining after completion of the pre-radiation dental extractions. Research participants must be willing to stay enrolled for the duration of the study.

RT to the head and neck can cause significant oral and dental side effects. Most head and neck (H&N) cancer patients receive high-dose radiotherapy, often in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy. Unfortunately, high-dose RT has significant adverse effects on the oral tissues, teeth and jaw bone, for example there is an increased rate of dental caries and tooth loss following radiation therapy. Furthermore, RT impairs the ability of bone to heal, leading to a life-long risk of osteoradionecrosis (necrotic bone in the jaw), which is often precipitated by dental extractions. To attempt to reduce the frequency of such complications, pre-RT dental management is now considered best practice and standard of care in the USA and many other countries. This is a prospective cohort study to document dental and other oral outcomes in patients who receive external beam RT with curative intent, as part of clinical care for a head and neck cancer. Participants of this study will be examined by dental professionals up to two years after the start of RT. All study participants will receive a baseline oral examination prior to the start of RT. Follow-up examinations and data collection will be conducted at six-month intervals up to 2 years after the start of RT. Subject participation may last approximately 30 months.