Top medical researcher to lead throat cancer treatment plan in memory of dad

A TOP medical researcher is leading a groundbreaking new treatment for those who suffer from permanent dry mouth due to throat cancer after tragically losing her father to the condition.

Dr Elaine Emmerson will lead the study into the treatment
Dr Elaine Emmerson will lead the study into the treatment

Dr Elaine Emmerson, from the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, is developing a method to grow back salivary glands after radiotherapy.

The team aims to design a new technology that can be implanted into the affected gland and restore the environmental signals promoting the restoration of salivary glands.

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Cells involved in this process are often depleted when the organ is damaged through harsh cancer treatments, but Dr Emmerson says regenerating the glands could allow patients to taste, swallow and speak without impediment.

Dr Emmerson lost dad John to the condition in 2005.

Her bid comes after her dad John Emmerson died after a short battle with head and neck cancer when he was just 57.

Dr Emmerson said: “Our research addresses how the cellular environment around the gland is playing a supportive role in regeneration of the glands, specifically looking at the nerves and how we can replace or mimic them.

“Patients are reliant on short- term treatments, which either replicate saliva with limited success or aim to try and stimulate the residual tissue that’s still there, which has so many off-target side effects that patients cease treatment.”

She added: “Successfully achieving this goal would greatly improve the quality of life and oral health for thousands of head and neck cancer patients across the world.”

Jamie Rae, TCF’s Founder and Chief Executive and a survivor of throat cancer, has said the latest research has left him “filled with hope.”

He added: “Dry mouth is a horrendous condition that anyone subjected to treatment for throat cancer lives with every day for the rest of their lives.

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“It makes you think twice about going out for a meal with friends, avoiding anything spicy and eating slowly and carefully, taking extra care not to choke when you swallow your food. I honestly cannot remember the last time I had a full night of sleep due to dry mouth.

“To discover that right here in Scotland was a team working on a solution to this was amazing. It fills me with hope that we can finally have a breakthrough that would change millions of lives worldwide."