Kirsten Limesand, PhD, is interested in how radiation therapy for head and neck cancer causes adverse secondary side effects in the normal salivary gland including xerostomia, oral mucositis, malnutrition, and increased oral infections. Although improvements have been made in targeting radiation treatment to the tumor, the salivary glands are often in close proximity to the treatment site. The significant destruction of the oral cavity following radiation therapy results in diminished quality of life and in some cases interruptions in cancer treatment schedules.
Her research program has its foundation in radiation-induced salivary gland dysfunction; mechanisms of damage, clinical prevention measures, and restoration therapies. Evidence suggests that salivary acinar function is compromised due to apoptosis induced by these treatments and temporary suppression of apoptotic events in salivary glands would have significant benefits to oral health. In her lab, they utilize a number of techniques including: genetically engineered mouse models, real-time RT/PCR, immunoblotting, immunohistochemistry, primary cultures, siRNA transfections, irradiation, and procedures to quantitate salivary gland physiology.