Doxepin, an antidepressant used to treat a combination of symptoms of anxiety and depression, can also significantly ease pain associated with oral mucositis in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancers of the head and neck, according to a Mayo Clinic study presented today at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting in Boston.
Oral mucositis is the painful inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes lining the mouth, gums, tongue, and throat. It is a common and often debilitating side effect of radiation therapy and chemotherapy cancer treatments. But ongoing research into the effects of doxepin on oral mucositis shows that the pain associated with this kind of inflammation can be significantly reduced.
Doxepin is sold under the brand names Adapin, Silenor, and Sinequan, among others.
In this study, researchers found that doxepin was well-tolerated and eased pain among patients with oral mucositis. However, a few subjects reported side effects, such as stinging, burning, unpleasant taste, and drowsiness. Given the option, 64 percent of the 155 participants decided to continue using doxepin after the study was complete.
"Oral mucositis or mouth sores is a painful and debilitating side effect of radiation therapy," said principal investigator Robert Miller, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Mayo Clinic. "Our findings represent a new standard of care for treating this condition."
While participants reported a few side effects, Miller said doxepin rinse does not cause the side effects associated with narcotic pain medicines, making it a better treatment for oral mucositis.
Cancer Facts: Oral Cancer