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Radiotherapy (RT), an integral part of the oncologic treatment for patients with head and neck cancer, can cause adverse side effects such as oral mucositis (OM). Pain from OM can impact a patient’s quality of life and interrupt RT treatment schedules, which decreases the probability for achieving cancer cure. Conventionally, RT-induced OM pain is treated with analgesics and/or mouthwash rinses. Doxepin, a traditional tricyclic antidepressant with analgesic and anesthetic properties when applied topically to the mucosa, has been shown to lower OM pain in multiple single-arm trials (Epstein et al.) and more recently, in a placebo-controlled crossover study (Leenstra and Miller et al.). Currently, a placebo-controlled study (Sio and Miller et al.) using doxepin for esophagitis pain caused by RT to the thorax is underway. Doxepin will also be further compared with magic mouthwash and a placebo solution in a three-arm trial (Miller and Sio et al.) with head and neck cancer patients with OM pain caused by RT. Doxepin may represent a new standard for treating RT-induced OM pain in the future.
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