By Jennifer Frustino, DDS, PhD.

Jennifer Frustino DDS, PhD.

The Center for Cancer Care (the Center) at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) participates in a variety of clinical trials to offer patients advanced therapy and supportive care options for the treatment of their cancer.

The Center is actively enrolling patients to participate in several clinical trials and studies. One such study sponsored by Merck is a clinical trial for those diagnosed with late-stage squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck titled “Study of Pembrolizumab Given Prior to Surgery and in Combination with Radiotherapy Given Post-surgery for Advanced Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma.” This trial provides an immunotherapy called Pembrolizumab that is given prior to cancer surgery, and Pembrolizumab in combination with standard-of-care radiation therapy as an after-surgery treatment in newly diagnosed late-stage head and neck cancer patients. The thought is that immunotherapy given before surgery and after surgery in combination with radiation therapy will improve a patient’s response to treatment and survival.

The Center also offers supportive clinical trials to help reduce the side effects of cancer treatment. A trial sponsored by MuReva Phototherapy, Inc. is titled “Photobiomodulation to Demonstrate Safety and Reduce the Incidence of Oral Mucositis in Adult Head & Neck Cancer Patients.” The MuReva Phototherapy trial is offered through ECMC and our Great Lakes Cancer Care Collaborative partners at Cancer Care of WNY. Patients receive low-level laser therapy daily prior to receiving head and neck radiation treatments. The laser therapy is delivered by a special illuminated mouthpiece that delivers a therapeutic dose of red light throughout the mouth. The therapy is designed to reduce the severity of oral mucositis (mouth sores), and promote healing in the mouth throughout their radiation treatments. The device is designed for patient comfort and ease of use and has been well tolerated by those involved in the study.

Another supportive study, “A Trial Testing Chemo Mouthpiece Device and Best Supportive Care Against Best Supportive Care Only for Symptoms of Oral Mucositis in Patients Receiving Chemotherapy,” uses a cryotherapy device (think ice pack for inside the mouth) to reduce and ease the symptoms of chemotherapy-related oral mucositis.

We have new studies coming to ECMC to help treat multiple myeloma, as well as a gene therapy study to treat dry mouth after head and neck cancer treatment. Other studies that ECMC clinicians and researchers are investigating include cancer biomarkers, banking specimens in biorepositories for future studies, and studying HPV in the blood of head and neck cancer patients. ECMC collaborates with many partners locally and nationally to provide quality research. Participation in research provides the opportunity for closer follow-up and ongoing surveillance with providers. It also allows patients to go beyond the standard of care and seek new opportunities for their health while contributing to the future of cancer treatments.

Jennifer Frustino, D.D.S., Ph.D. is the director of oral cancer screening and diagnostics in the Division of Oral Oncology and Maxillofacial Prosthetics in the Department of Dentistry at ECMC. Learn more about the Center for Cancer Care at ECMC at If you would like to participate in an upcoming clinical trial, call 716-898-3073.