Trial of Acupuncture for Radiation-Induced Xerostomia in Head and Neck Cancer

  • days left to enroll
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Wake Forest University Health Sciences
Updated on 17 February 2020
Karen Craver
Primary Contact
Kaiser Permanente-Walnut Creek (0.7 mi away) Contact
+40 other location
external beam radiation therapy
head and neck cancer
neck cancer


This study is being done to find out what effects, good and/or bad, acupuncture has on participants and their xerostomia caused by radiation therapy for the treatment of the cancer.


Patients who have met all eligibility criteria will be randomized to standard oral hygiene, standard oral hygiene + true acupuncture twice weekly for 4 weeks, or standard oral hygiene + sham acupuncture twice weekly for 4 weeks by a form of adaptive randomization, called minimization, because simple randomization could result in covariate imbalances .

The acupuncture points will be at three sites on each ear (Shenmen, Point Zero, Salivary Gland 2-prime), a site on the chin (CV24), a site on each forearm (Lu7), a site on each hand (LI 1-prime), a site on each leg (K6), and one placebo needle at Gb32 for a total of 14 sites. All sites will be applied for 20 minutes. For body points, standardized techniques for location will be utilized, which are based on anatomical landmarks as well as proportional measurements using the patient's own body. For example, finger breadth is based on each patient's middle finger, and the proportional unit of measure, the "cun," is defined as the distance between the two medial ends of the creases of the interphalangeal joints when the middle finger is flexed. Earpoint locations will mimic standard practice and be identified by the acupuncturists.

Treatment Standard Oral Hygiene, Standard Oral Hygiene + True Acupuncture, Standard Oral Hygiene + Sham Acupuncture
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT02589938
SponsorWake Forest University Health Sciences
Last Modified on17 February 2020

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Inclusion Criteria

Is your age greater than or equal to 18 yrs?
Gender: Male or Female
Do you have any of these conditions: Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation or Radiation Induced Xerostomia or head and neck cancer or Radiation Toxicity?
Must be at least 18 years of age and able to give informed consent
Must be able to read, write and understand English
Must have a diagnosis of head/neck cancer
Must have received bilateral radiation therapy, and subsequently developed grade 2 or 3 xerostomia, according to modified RTOG scale
Grade 0 - None
Grade 1 - Slight dryness of mouth (good response on stimulation and no significant dietary alterations necessary)
Grade 2 - Moderate dryness of mouth (poor response on stimulation and altered oral intake required such as frequent water, oral lubricants, or soft-moist foods)
Grade 3 - Complete dryness of mouth (no response on stimulation and difficult oral alimentation; IV fluids, pureed diet or tube feedings may be required)
Grade 4 - Fibrosis
Must have received external beam radiation at a mean dose of at least 24 Gy to one of the parotid glands. The other gland can receive less than 24 Gy
Must have completed radiotherapy at least 12 months prior to entry
Must have anatomically intact parotid and submandibular glands. A focused (head/neck) history and exam conducted by a physician or dentist within the past year is required
Must be acupuncture nave
Must have ECOG performance status of 0-2

Exclusion Criteria

History of xerostomia, Sjogren's disease or other illness known to affect salivation prior to head/neck radiation
Suspected or known closure of salivary gland ducts on either side. (Patients addressed in inclusion criteria (i.e. those who have had one submandibular gland removed) are expected to have closure to the removed submandibular gland and will be exempt from this exclusion criteria.)
Currently receiving or planning to use drugs, herbs, alternative medicines, or devices that could affect salivary production. Treatment known to affect salivation should be stopped at least 14 days prior to enrollment. Over the counter products used for salivary substitution are allowed, but will need to be discontinued for at least 24 hours prior to saliva and questionnaire data collection
Have received any investigational new drug within the past 30 days or planning to receive such during the study period
Active systemic infection or skin infection at or near the acupuncture sites
Receiving chemotherapy during study period
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