Grant Application

Annette Quinn, RN, MSN and David A. Clump, MD, UPMC Shadyside Radiation Oncology


Proposed Innovation

Nearly all patients with head and neck tumors treated with chemoradiotherapy develop mucositis — an inflammation inside the mouth and throat that can lead to painful ulcers and mouth sores. It can affect patient quality of life, disrupt treatment, and even compromise cancer survival.

Through this grant, the Radiation Oncology Department at UPMC Shadyside purchased equipment to start a low-level laser therapy (LLLT) program aimed at preventing the development of mucositis.


Improvements in Action

LLLT promotes healing through rapid regeneration of normal tissues. Through this project, which began in January 2014, patients undergoing chemoradiotherapy for head and neck cancer received LLLT treatment prior to radiation treatment three times a week.


Results — Next Steps

The LLLT treatment has proven very successful, resulting in dramatic reductions in oral mucositis in patients receiving chemoradiotherapy for head and neck cancer. In fact, the results were so good the project was expanded to include high-risk stem cell transplant patients. As of December 2014, 125 patients — including 51 stem cell transplant patients — had received the LLLT treatment. None of the patients needed to stop or reduce their chemoradiotherapy treatment due to oral mucositis, which usually occurs in 30 percent of patients. And, the need for feeding tube placements or narcotics for pain dropped by more than one-third.

LLLT treatment has become a standard of care at UPMC Shadyside, and the Radiation Oncology Department is now exploring other uses for the laser treatment. The stem cell program is now planning to begin managing the LLLT treatment for its patients.