Salivary Gland Regeneration for Oral Cancer

Why is salivary gland regeneration necessary? Patients undergoing radiation for oral cancer often have the salivary glands radiated, leading to a life of saliva deficiency. Saliva cleans the mouth and aids in digestion. The worst part about losing saliva is lack of sleep from continually awakening to moisten the mouth.

There is no medicine that replaces saliva in a successful way. Most oral cancer survivors say it’s the worst part about treatment. However, in June 2010 when I lectured in Athens Greece for HASCOCC (Hellenic Association of Supportive Care of the Oral Cavity in Cancer), I learned from Monique Stockman, RDH, PhD from the University Medical Center Groningen in Holland about their phenomenal saliva remedy for patients who have undergone radiation to the neck.

In Athens with my sister Abby (L) and daughter Elena (R)

With mice as their subject, they remove the stem cells from the salivary gland BEFORE treatment for cancer. The stem cells are replaced AFTER treatment concludes. What did they find? New salivary glands grew! They believe that just like the mice, the salivary glands in humans will grow back, too! I got chills up and down my spine thinking about how many survivors could have a better quality of life!

Just this week, an article came out about similar research on salivary gland regeneration in the U.S.  I hope future oral cancer patients can benefit from this potential treatment.

Comments 21

  1. It’s been almost 4 years since I underwent
    Chemo and radiation for squamous cell carcinoma
    of the upper palate.I was never told that my salivary
    glands would be destroyed as a consequence.
    Is there any hope of growing back these glands
    I have been using a feeding tube ever since.
    I’m thankful I’m alive, but the quality of my life
    is terrible.can you advise me on what I can do?
    I’ve given up with the doctors at Mass. Eye & Ear.
    Thank you.

  2. James,

    I’m a 64 year old man, 2.5 years out from 7 weeks of radiation & Erbitux chemo for squamous cell carcinoma of the right tonsil that moved to 2 lymph glands. I had the feeding tube during the treatment & for a few months after. Was depressed till I finally another way to get food. I now nourish with shakes made with 4 Ensures, blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, peaches, honey, a scrambled egg, an avocado, banana, peanut & almond butter, hummus, & yogurt. Tastes like vanilla shake. I drink about 45 oz’s a day. Blood work is better than it’s ever been. Lack of saliva makes it almost impossible to eat food. but the real issue that almost no one gets is the complete lack of joy for food anymore. I don’t even get hungry anymore, which is weird. It’s just fuel now, but if you can go to the shakes, you can get the damned tube out,. That alone will greatly improve your lifestyle. You’ll want to socialize again, go out, see friends, be you again.
    The library is a great place to start for books on shakes & smoothies. Beats the hell out of that God- awful tube, & you’ll feel a lot less like a victim with it out. That’s important for your spirit. Your body was cured by the treatment, but you have to fix your head. No pill for that.
    Let me know how it goes, James. Good Luck.

    1. Post

      Thanks for sharing….powerful line: “Your body was cured by the treatment, but you have to fix your head. No pill for that.” Check out the post I just made on that subject.

  3. I had IMRT in 2003. My xerostomia and hyposalivation is unbearable! I recently signed up for a study at the NIH, but didn’t qualify, because my parotids produced 0% stimulated and unstimulated. What else can I try? I’ve already tried Evoax, Saligen, and accupuncture.

    1. Post

      Hi Destiny,
      Try some more products! There is a lot on the market. Here is a list:

        Artificial Saliva- Carboxymethylcellulose or hydroxymethylcellulose solutions

      (Mimics natural saliva, does not stimulate salivary gland production)

      Entertainer’s Secret® (KLI Corp) spray
      Glandosane®(Kenwood/Bradley) Spray
      Moi-Stir® (Kingswood Labs) spray, swabs
      Optimoist® (Colgate -Palmolive) spray
      Saliva Substitute® (Roxane Labs) Liquid
      Salivart® (Gevauer) preservative-free aerosol
      Salix® (Scandinavian Natural health and beauty) Tablets
      V.A Oralube® (Oral Dis.Res. Lab)sodium-free; liquid
      Xero-Lube® Artificial Saliva (Scherer) sodium-free; spray
      Mucopolysaccharide Solutions: spray
      MouthKote® (Parnell) spray

        Salivary Stimulants (sialogogues)

      Natrol Dry Mouth Relief (Natrol and Amarillo Biosciences) lozenges
      Salese (Nuvora) Lozenges
      Xylimelts® (orahealth) time release oral disc
      OraMoist® Quantum Health
      Act Dry mouth Lozenges ( J&J)
      Sugar-free chewing gums (various vendors)(aim for 100% xylitol)
      Xylitol, (gums, candies, lozenges, sprays)(look for Spry, Ice chips, Zellies, Dr. Johns)
      Amorphous Calcium Phosphate (ACP), (Enamelon tooth gel)
      Recaldent (GC America, Cadbury) Toothpaste, gum

        Salivary Enzyme Replacement

      Biotene Products (GSK) Contains three primary salivary enzymes – Glucose Oxidase,
      Lactoperoxidase, and Lysozyme, sodium laurel sulfate free. Toothpaste, mouthwash, gum
      Oralbalance (GSK) gel
      CankerX (Sunstar Butler) gel

        Lozenges and Discs

      (listed above in stimulants too)
      Oramoist™ dry mouth treatment patch (Quantum Health)
      Salese™ dry mouth lozenges (Nuvora)
      Xylimelts™ moisturizer and salivary stimulant (OraHealth)

        Prescription Salivary Stimulants

      NeutraSal-Supersaturated Calcium Phosphate Rinse (OraPharma)
      Pilocarpine: Stimulates residual salivary glands, solution, gel or tablet form (Salagen)
      Cevimeline: Increases exocrine gland secretions, tablets (Evoxac)
      Anathole trithione: Simulates exocrine gland secretions (Sialor)

  4. Eva Grayzel,
    Which of these products are for use when someone is sleeping? Which ones are over the counter and which are prescription?

  5. It’s been almost 2 years since I underwent Chemo and radiation for squamous cell carcinoma of the upper palate.I was never told that my salivary glands would be completely destroyed as a consequence. Is there any hope of growing back these glands? It has been unbearable living without saliva. I’m thankful I’m alive, but the quality of my life is terrible. Can you offer any help at all please? Is there any options or solutions for me? The doctors have been no help.
    Thank you. Greg

    1. Post

      There is some research on regrowing salivary glands with stem cells after radiation, but that is way in the future. Right now, the only hope for comfort is with products and there are many on the market. Keep trying different ones until you find one that works. I will email you a complete and current list. Also, it would be helpful to connect with others in the same situation to learn how they cope. Would you like me to connect you with a few people I know? The Oral Cancer Foundation Patient Forum is another way to get advice. Eva

  6. My radiation was completed 09/16. After effects are much worse than the cancer itself. But, I’m thankful I was cured. I talk as if i’ve had a stroke with my mouth constantly feeling drawn up. Dry mouth does not get better. Water is constantly with me. I don’t feel like I can kiss my wife decently.

    At times I feel despair and just want to give up. Products last only a matter of minutes. Salegen helps very little. My dental problems are on the rise and I only have 2 exams left on my dental insurance. I fear loosing teeth. I buy trident gum with xylitol by the case and suck on sugarless candy. Lemon drops have been suggested but I fear further erosion of teeth by acid.

    Do you know of any studies or trials seeking participants? Any ideas or solutions? Im ready to travel wherever to seek help.

    1. Post

      Roy, There is hope – don’t give up! Know that you are not alone with frustration due to lack of saliva. I will email you a list of products. Keep trying different products until you find one that works. Here is my oral hygiene regimen, thanks to Dr Ellie Phillips, I have come to find great benefit in starting with Closys to neutralize the acid in my mouth, then brush with Crest, (the old plain paste version with no additives). I follow that with my Waterpik. Then, I by rinse with Listerine Anticavity (Blue) also with no additives like Tartar Control or Whitening. Using a mouthwash with alcohol prevents growth of bacteria. I need to dilute it with water because it’s just too strong for my oral tissue. Then just before bed, I rinse with ACT to leave fluoride on my teeth. Phew – I know that sounds like a lot, but I get through it in reasonable amount of time. While rinsing, I clean up my countertop, tweeze a hair or fold a towel.

      If I hear of any studies on people with dry mouth from radiation, I will let you know!

  7. Hi Eva

    Thank you for the information. Please keep me informed of any options or news. This is so difficult.


  8. Hi,
    My dad finished up chemo/radiation treatment in Sept 2017. He, like many comments listed, has no saliva from the radiation. He can’t sleep straight through the night due to stuffiness, which is also related to the radiation. He is discouraged, eating is still a job for him. Can you recommend products that might help? We have done the whole line of Biotene. Thank you, Ang.

    1. Post
  9. Still suffering from radiation-induced xerostomia.

    Still ready to scream at the doctors who suggest “candies/gums”, because they have no idea what 0% from the parotids after 10 minutes of stimulation means or they don’t listen or they can’t comprehend the severity of the issue.

    I’m checking into getting the xeros pump, because it can provide liquid at night. Has anyone else tried it?

    1. Post

      I sent you a direct email last time you wrote, but it looks like you never received. Have you seen this list: https://www.sixstepscreening.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dry-Mouth-Products-2018.pdf. I sleep with a a Camelbak (Either the flip-top spill-proof bottle, or even better, the one for skiers/hikers. It’s a backpack with a hose. You bite on the end to get the water.) Notice, there are prescriptions meds for producing saliva, too. I’ve never heard of the pump!

  10. I am having trouble coping with the dry mouth. It’s horrible!!! I miss real food too!!! How do you cope? I need my quality of life back!!

    1. Post
  11. I can’t believe you have been doing this for 20 years! Omg! I don’t know if I can keep up with this struggle. I know how you feel.

    1. Post
  12. What did you need hyperbaric oxygen therapy? I have read an article about this man in Australia getting Hyperbaric therapy for radiation induced dry mouth and he feels positive.

    1. Post

      I had HBOT for a split lip that didn’t heal. I had another series of treatments before implants in my radiated bone. I do feel that the treatments improved my saliva production. The docs didn’t expect that as a byproduct of treatment, but I would say the treatments helped.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *