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Light therapy offers pain relief after cancer treatment

19 Feb 2019

University at Buffalo will investigate alternatives to prescription opioids for oral ulcers and swelling.

Various forms of light therapy are known to accelerate recovery from injury or even influence a patient's state of mind after surgery, although the exact mechanisms have sometimes been contentious.

Without an understanding of its biological action, widespread use of these biophotomodulation techniques has been inhibited. But researchers from the University at Buffalo (UB) have now received funding for participation in a project investigating the use of light therapy as way to ease patient discomfort following treatment of cancer in the mouth.

The funding is part of a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to study light therapy as a replacement for prescription opioids in treating oral mucositis, painful ulcers and swelling in the mouth that result from chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer.

NIDCR's grant was awarded to Cleveland-based MuReva Phototherapy, formed in 2018 as a spin-off from lighting solutions manufacturer Lumitex specifically to develop pain-relief light technology. UB has received $511,000 of the award, to be used in connection with testing of the system.

"The current epidemic of opioids has impacted cancer care, especially for cancer pain relief," commented Praveen Arany of the UB School of Dental Medicine, leader of the research study. "This treatment offers a simple, non-drug, non-invasive treatment approach to relieve pain and improve quality of life for cancer patients. The striking lab and clinical evidence for photobiomodulation treatments in supportive cancer care has demonstrated tremendous promise and is becoming popular."

Market-ready solution

Lumitex has existing interests in phototherapy systems used to treat jaundice in infants, but the creation of MuReva Phototherapy followed the completion of a 2017 pilot study into non-invasive intraoral LED phototherapy specifically for the prevention and treatment of oral mucositis, an inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes that can follow chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

That study concluded that near-infrared illumination protected the mucosa from cell death, and led to the development of a mouthpiece designed to deliver between 4 and 6 J/cm2 of NIR light directly to the oral mucosa in a tolerable period of time.

Using the technology developed by MuReva Phototherapy, UB researchers will now 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.

“Current approaches for delivering a photobiomodulation laser for oral mucositis requires a physician to spend 30 minutes per patient, per day, and is too impractical an approach for mass adoption,” said Vedang Kothari, CEO of MuReva Phototherapy. "MuReva’s innovative mouthpiece can be self-administered, and simultaneously targets a much larger portion of the oral cavity and delivers a full treatment in six minutes or less. We believe this technology has the potential to revolutionize the treatment for oral mucositis and finally present a market-ready solution to this debilitating side-effect."

CeNing Optics Co LtdBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationMad City Labs, Inc.Hyperion OpticsLASEROPTIK GmbHTRIOPTICS GmbHAlluxa
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