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Role of exosomes in rescuing Xerostomia in head and neck cancer

Institution: Stanford University
Investigator(s): Vignesh Viswanathan, Ph.D
Award Cycle: 2018 (Cycle 27) Grant #: 27FT-0038 Award: $200,297
Subject Area: Oral Disease and Dental Health
Award Type: Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards

Initial Award Abstract

Many head and neck cancer (HNC) patients undergo radiation therapy as part of the treatment for their cancer. The most common long-term side effect of radiation is dry mouth, which is also known as xerostomia. This happens because radiation can damage the salivary glands, leading to a substantial reduction in saliva production. Xerostomia results in difficulty in chewing, swallowing food, dental decay and gum recession, culminating in deterioration of quality of life. Current available treatment options for this condition are not very effective, are costly and provide only temporary symptom relief. Our project focuses on developing a potentially new therapy to permanently prevent and treat xerostomia in HNC patients. In collaboration with Capricor Therapeutics, we will study the effect of exosomes that are produced by a type of stem cells (cardiac) in preventing radiation damage to the salivary glands through protection of salivary stem cells and mitigation of acute inflammation. Exosomes are well characterized small lipid-based molecules carrying specific cargo known to influence tissue function and biology.  Work at Capricor has demonstrated that exosomes from cardiac stem cells are effective in improving tissue regeneration after injury in animal models. We have generated preliminary data to show that exosomes treatment improved the capacity of the salivary gland stem cells to multiply. We are excited to extend this work to small animal model where we will study the effect of exosome treatment in the regeneration process of salivary glands after radiation. The results of this study can lead to a novel therapy that can either prevent or reverse xerostomia permanently in HNC patients.