Light therapy could replace opioids to relieve cancer treatment

The work is looking at a form of low-dose light therapy in prevention and treatment of oral mucositis after cancer treatment.

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A team of researchers at the University at Buffalo (UB; Buffalo, NY) is investigating light therapy as a noninvasive replacement for prescription opioids in treating oral mucositis, painful ulcers, and swelling in the mouth that result from chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer.

The research team has received part of a $1.5 million grant funded by the National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to help determine the effectiveness of photobiomodulation, a form of low-dose light therapy, in prevention and treatment of oral mucositis after cancer treatment. Praveen Arany, DDS, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UB School of Dental Medicine, is leading the team in collaboration with faculty from the Departments of Radiation Medicine and Oral Oncology at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The grant was awarded to MuReva Phototherapy (Cleveland, OH), a spinoff company of lighting solutions manufacturer Lumitex (Strongsville, OH), to further develop the light technology. UB received $511,000 of the award to test the technology.

Multiple studies have found that patients report oral mucositis as the worst side effect of their cancer treatment. Pain from the condition can slow or delay treatment, and in severe cases require hospitalization and feeding tubes. "In addition to the pain, it compromises a patient's ability to eat and swallow, and may even interfere with their planned treatment," says Mukund Seshadri, DDS, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Oral Oncology at Roswell Park.

The light therapy approach targets a much larger portion of the oral cavity, and delivers a full treatment in six minutes or less. (Photo credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo)

Using the technology developed by MuReva Phototherapy, the UB and Roswell Park researchers will examine the effectiveness of photobiomodulation treatments for oral mucositis, as well as determine the proper dosage to limit pain and stimulate healing in tissues damaged by cancer treatment.

Related: Photobiomodulation and the brain: Traumatic brain injury and beyond

"Current approaches for delivering a photobiomodulation-utilizing laser for oral mucositis requires a physician to spend 30 minutes per patient, per day, and is too impractical an approach for mass adoption," says Vedang Kothari, president and CEO of MuReva Phototherapy. The device's mouthpiece, which can be self-administered, simultaneously targets a much larger portion of the oral cavity, and delivers a full treatment in six minutes or less, he explains.

For more information, please visit dental.buffalo.edu.

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