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Pieces of Eight


ECU Joins National Studies Seeking to Reduce Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

By Doug Boyd

Specialists at East Carolina University are studying ways to reduce side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for people with cancer.

Dr. Ron Allison, chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Brody School of Medicine, is working on two studies looking for ways to ease the discomfort of patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer and breast cancer.


“One of the most feared aspects of cancer treatment is the side effects,” Allison said.

In one study, Allison is part of a national trial to gauge the effectiveness of the drug palifermin in reducing inflammation and swelling of the oral cavity, pharynx and esophagus in people being treated with radiation for head and neck cancer.

The swelling and inflammation are called mucositis, and it makes it hard for patients to swallow. As a result, they get dehydrated.

The research is funded by a $32,349 grant from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical firm Amgen, maker of palifermin, sold under the trade name Kepivance.

In collaboration with researchers at Wake Forest University, Allison is participating in a randomized clinical trial to study how well the coenzyme Q10 works in relieving treatment-related fatigue in women with breast cancer. Coenzymes are small organic non-protein molecules that carry chemical groups between enzymes.

ECU’s part of the study is funded by a $14,000 grant from Wake Forest Univerrsity. The study as a whole is supported by the National Cancer Institute.

In other news, Allison has been named interim director of the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center. Dr. Adam Asch, professor and chief of hematology/oncology in the ECU Department of Internal Medicine, is interim associate director.

Allison has also been named to the N.C. Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control. The committee is charged with recommending a coordinated, comprehensive cancer control plan for the state. The group is also developing a statewide inventory of cancer services and activities.

In addition, the Department of Radiation Oncology was recently accredited by the American College of Radiology. Accreditation is good for five years. The center is the only one in the state accredited by ACR, Allison said.

The department has also produced a Spanish-language version of its Web site. The site was created by Dr. Hiram Gay, a native of Puerto Rico. It’s at

This page originally appeared in the Feb. 23, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at