NETHERLANDS: While studying prostate cancer and examining a new combination of CT and PET scans, researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute discovered a new set of salivary glands, about 3.81 cm in length, in human throat.
The new glands, named tubarial salivary glands, are believed to lubricate and moisten the area of the throat behind the nose and mouth.
In this technique, the doctors inject into the patient a radioactive tracer that binds well to the protein PSMA, which is elevated in prostate cancer cells.
This combination of scans is also good in detecting salivary gland tissues, also high in PSMA.
Doctors using radiotherapy for treatment of cancers in the head and neck try to avoid the main salivary glands, as damaging them could make eating, speaking or swallowing difficult for patients. But these newly discovered glands were still getting hit by radiation, as doctors were not aware of their existence, resulting in patients feeling unexplained side effects.
The study said that sparing these glands in patients receiving radiotherapy may provide an opportunity to improve their quality of life.
Dr Wouter V Vogel of the NCI, one of the researchers involved in the study, emphasised that their next step is to ascertain how these glands can be spared from radiation.