Griffith Health’s expansion on the Gold Coast is continuing to draw significant international research projects, including the latest global collaboration using stem cell technology.

The OraSTEM project is investigating orofacial (mouth and face) complications from cancer therapy using stem cell transplantation.

It is being conducted in Europe, North America and Australia and being led by Dr Mike Brennan from Carolinas Medical Centre in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dr Raj Nair (pictured), head of Oral Medicine at Griffith University’s Centre for Medicine and Oral Health and the new Oral Medicine Consultant for Queensland Health, is the principal Australian investigator for the OraSTEM project.

“This study is the largest of its kind in the world and there are only five places in the world with the expertise to undertake the research and analyse the results. Griffith University on the Gold Coast is one of those places,” Dr Nair said.

“Cancer patients undergoing treatment experience oral health problems because rapid cell renewal and saliva production in their mouths are inhibited.

“Our mouths are naturally full of germs and we produce and shed a large amount of healthy cells and other bug-killing properties in saliva to keep them at bay.

“Traditional cancer therapies are meant to inhibit cell reproduction, good and bad, and this can have dire consequences for a person’s mouth.

“The skin of the mouth can become very thin and fragile, eventually deteriorating into a condition called ‘oral mucositis’, basically a portal for illness and infection to get into the bloodstream.

“This is a nightmare for any cancer doctor and cancer patient.”

The OraSTEM study hopes to break this cycle through early identification of high-risk patients and, if appropriate, alleviating anticipated orofacial complication through a supportive care system.

“Getting that treatment and supportive care at the new Gold Coast University Hospital would improve the lives of cancer patients significantly on the Gold Coast.

“This is something we don’t have but we must do it. The new hospital will provide a fantastic platform for stem cell treatment once top-grade machinery is installed and calibrated.”

Dr Nair’s global experience includes work at the Dana Faber Cancer Institute and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Harvard University) in the US, Eastman Dental Hospital (University of London) in the UK and the Queen Mary Hospital (University of Hong Kong).

Dr Brennan is the President of International Society of Oral Oncology.

The research is supported by Professor Ward Massey, Head of School of Dentistry and Oral Health, Dr Jeremy Wellwood, Head of Haematology and Oncology, Gold Coast Hospital and Dr Brian Bell, Executive Director of Medical Services at Gold Coast Hospital.