Patients who have had radiotherapy to the head and neck region often have problems with swallowing or mouth opening. These problems may make it difficult to eat certain foods. Some patients are unable to eat enough and have to be fed through a tube. High doses of radiation can also decrease the blood supply to the jawbone. If this happens, the bone gets less oxygen than it needs, which may result in the death of bone tissue. This relatively rare condition is called osteoradionecrosis or ORN. All of these problems can have a negative impact on patients’ quality of life.
Research suggests that one or more genes may be linked to the risk of post-radiation complications in the head and neck. We have already studied one gene and found that patients with one variation of the gene had an increased risk of ORN.
In this study we want to test a much larger collection of genes. We want to find out whether we can predict swallowing and mouth opening problems.
DNA is a chemical that contains the genetic instructions needed for a plant or animal to develop, survive and reproduce. DNA provides a unique genetic fingerprint for each person. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Genetic tests are done using DNA that has been extracted from a sample of blood or saliva. The tests allow researchers to see which genes are more frequently present amongst those patients with severe complications and/or which genes are present amongst patients with fewer problems.
We will compare the genes from 2 groups of patients:
- 100 patients with few problems – the control group
- 100 patients who have severe complications – the radiosensitive group