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How Do You Spell Oral Mucositis Relief? L- A- S- E- R

Did you know that laser technology is being used to provide oral mucositis relief in oncology patients? Get more details in our interview with Annette Quinn, RN, MSN


Did you know that almost 100% of patients receiving radiation therapy to the head and neck region develop oral mucositis (OM) and that it's extremely common in patients receiving certain other chemotherapies or targeted agents?

What's more, patients continuously report that OM is one of the most debilitating side effects of cancer therapy.

Did you know that laser technology is being successfully used to provide OM relief in patients undergoing radiation and/or chemotherapy?

We're excited to have one of the leading practitioners of PBM as a keynote speaker during the upcoming ALD 2018 Annual Meeting. Don't miss Annette Quinn's presentation “Light Years Ahead: The Use of Photobiomodulation in Oral Mucositis”.

We recently had the opportunity to speak to Annette Quinn, RN, MSN who is the Program Manager of Radiation Oncology at UPMC Hillman Cancer Centers and a keynote speaker during the ALD’s upcoming Annual session from April 24th-28th in Orlando.

ALD: Annette, your key note is entitled “Light Years Ahead: The Use of Photobiomodulation in Oral Mucositis”. Making this presentation during oral cancer awareness month before hundreds of laser dentistry practitioners is certainly an example of the planets coming into alignment. How prevalent is oral mucositis? How does it impact the quality of life and prognosis for recovery of the oncology patient?

AQ: Almost 100% of patients receiving radiation therapy to the head and neck region and 75% of patient of patients receiving stem-cell transplant will develop oral mucositis. It is also prevelant in patient receiving certain other chemotherapies or targeted agents. Patient will continuously report that oral mucositis is one of the most debilitating side effects of cancer therapy. Not only does it cause a significant amount of pain which necessitates narcotic pain medicine, but it interferes with patients being able to get the adequate nutrition they need during therapy.

ALD: What is the traditional method of treatment for oral mucositis and how effective is it?

AQ: There is currently NO standard of care for treating OM. Historically medicines that contain numbing agents such as lidocaine have been used with minimal effectiveness.

ALD: You’ve become a leading advocate for using photobiomodulation (PBM) for treating oral mucositis. When did you first become aware of this treatment modality and what has been your experience when applying it to your oncology patients?

AQ: We have been using PBM for the last four years. A patient undergoing head and neck therapy destined for the development of OM, went all the way through treatment without one sore. When questioned what he was doing to prevent them, he told us his daughter was a dentist and she was shining a "magic red light" into his mouth daily. We quickly did research and applied for a grant to get a unit. We saw such incredible results with our patients that our hospital has since purchased 2 more units.

ALD: How does PBM work to provide relief and heal oral mucosa?

AQ: PBM works at the cellular level on an organelle in the cell known as the mitochondria or "powerhouse" of the cell. It enables the mitochondria to produce more energy known as ATP to reduce inflammation and improve healing.

ALD: Can PBM be used prophylactically to prevent oral mucositis from developing in patients undergoing chemotherapy?

AQ: YES. In our experience PBM is incredibly effective in a prophylactic setting.

ALD: It’s easy to see how treating oral cancer patients for oral mucositis via PBM would be in the wheelhouse of laser dentistry practitioners. Do you believe there is also an opportunity for collaboration with medical professionals who are treating patients with other forms of cancer?

AQ: Absolutely. Oral cancer patients aren't the only ones who develop OM. Certain chemotherapies for breast, colon and lung cancer can also cause severe OM. These professionals often just put a band aid on the mucositis while focusing more on the primary site of disease. The mucositis can cause major concerns and often lead to infection thus having a dental professional who can take care of the "forgotten" oral cavity would be fantastic!!!

ALD: How much additional training would an ALD certified dentist require to become proficient in treating oral mucositis with PBM?

AQ: Very minimal. I think they already know a lot more about this arena than the oncologist.

ALD: At the end of the day, it’s about the patient. What is the typical patient reaction after PBM treatment?

AQ: This has been the most amazing part. After treating over 2,000 patients here at UPMC we have never had one patient refuse treatment or want to stop in the middle. In fact quite the opposite, the patients have such incredible relief and feel so good they don't want to stop.

ALD: Has the treatment of oral mucositis with PBM been FDA cleared or is it still considered off label use of the technology?

AQ:It is still off label for OM however, it is approved for wound healing which is exactly what OM is.

ALD: What do you see as the greatest barriers to utilizing PBM for treating oral mucositis? How can we break through these barriers?

AQ: Insurance reimbursement is by far the greatest obstacle in PBM. Greater peer-reviewed studies conducted here in the states would help to break this barrier.

ALD: What do you believe are the main takeaways of your upcoming keynote at the ALD Annual Session?

AQ: Oral mucositis is one of the most debilitating side effects of cancer therapy. There are currently no approved treatments for OM. Photobiomodulation is currently the most effective treatment for OM and has no reported side effects. It is imperative that PBM offered to every patient that is at risk for the development of OM

Annette Quinn RN MSN