Radiation therapy for malignant tumours in the head and neck region are inevitably associated with significant long-term injury to the salivary glands, often resulting in salivary gland hypofunction. The subsequent lack of saliva production leads to many functional and quality-of-life problems for affected patients and there is no effective method to eliminating this problem caused by radiation treatments. Although many studies have been done in animal models, the mechanism of this injury in humans is still unclear. In this review, an animal model (miniature pigs) used in irradiated research is mainly discussed. This review also presents the progress made to date on the gene transfer-mediated functional restoration of irradiated salivary glands and the possibilities provided by future interventions to prevent radiation damage to salivary glands.
Keywords: gene transfer, miniature pig, radiation damage, salivary glands, xerostomia