|dc.description.abstract||Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer, with an estimated 650,000 registrations and 350,000 deaths worldwide annually (Parkin et al., 2005). The treatment for these types of cancers is becoming increasingly aggressive with the majority of patients receiving a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy to cure their cancer. Severe oral mucositis is a common side effect of these cytotoxic treatments with 60% of patients receiving radiation therapy and 92% of patients receiving chemoradiation developing it during the course of their treatment (Parulekar et al., 1998; Sonis, 1998; Dodd et al., 2000; Elting et al., 2003). Oral mucositis leads to many secondary complications including severe oral pain, difficulty in eating and swallowing, taste changes, infection, malnutrition and weight loss. Currently, there is no standard form of treatment for oral mucositis with the majority of treatments aimed at palliation of symptoms rather than preventing or treatment oral mucositis itself.
The research presented in this thesis investigates the effect of manuka honey on the prevention and treatment of radiation induced oral mucositis in patients receiving radiation therapy and chemoradiation for head and neck cancers at the Palmerston North Oncology Department. The original study was designed as a stage II randomised single blinded trial where patients were randomised into one of two arms. Patients in the control arm were given the standard treatments for oral mucositis in New Zealand including Benzydamine Hydrochloride (HCL), bicarbonate rinses, pain killers and anti-fungals. Patients in the experimental arm were given all standard treatments and were asked to gargle 20mls of undiluted manuka honey three times per day. Patients oral mucositis was scored three times per week, they were weighed once per week and asked to fill out a food and drug diary everyday and a quality of life questionnaire once every fortnight during treatment.
Due to poor patient compliance with the undiluted honey this trial was downgraded to a phase I pilot trial investigating the best way to administer manuka honey to treat oral mucositis. This thesis specifically reports the results for twelve patients recruited to this trial between March 2009 and December 2009.
Due to the early downgrading of this trial from a randomised phase II trial to a pilot trial the effects of pure undiluted manuka honey on radiation induced oral mucositis could not be assessed. There was no statistically significant difference in the severity of oral mucositis reported between those taking diluted manuka honey and those using standard forms of treatment only. Patients taking diluted manuka honey appeared to have slightly less weight loss than those receiving standard treatments alone however this did not reach statistical significance. All patients, irrespective of whether they were taking honey or not, reported a severe decrease in quality of life throughout the course of their radiation therapy.
There were large issues with patient compliance in this trial. Even when the honey had been diluted significantly patients complained the honey tasted too sweet, made them feel nauseous and stung their oral mucosa. Due to these issues with compliance, it was not deemed ethical to continue with the current trial unless the honey is given to patients is a way which is tolerated better.||