Internationally recognized pioneer in salivary gland research, Robert Witt, M.D., of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute at ChristianaCare, co-chaired the recent 5th International Salivary Gland Congress held in October in Philadelphia, that spotlighted his seminal work on salivary gland regenerative medicine.
More than a decade ago Dr. Witt originated the idea that regenerative medicine could be used to develop salivary glands in the lab to relieve the debilitating lack of saliva in patients who have undergone radiation treatments.
“The take-home message from the meeting is that regenerating tissue-engineered salivary glands for humans suffering from the effects of radiation therapy is approaching and not far away,” Dr. Witt said.
Dr. Witt continues to advance his work with researchers from the University of Texas, the University of Michigan and the National Institutes of Health.
His latest book, “Surgery of the Salivary Glands,” reflects over 30 years of developing surgical techniques and promises to be the definitive text on salivary gland diseases.
A highlight of the Congress was the keynote panel on translational research in regenerative medicine that spotlighted Dr. Witt’s research.
“Many of the seminal concepts of salivary gland regenerative medicine were started at the Graham Cancer Center, thanks to the framework put in place by our medical director, Dr. Nicholas Petrelli,” said Dr. Witt, “and now people around the world are building on our original ideas and findings.”
The Congress included presentations and panel discussions on the latest minimally invasive surgical treatment technologies, the evaluation and work-up of salivary disorders, obstructive and inflammatory salivary disease and neoplastic disease covering both malignant and benign salivary gland tumors.
Other ChristianaCare experts participated in the Congress:
- Alberto Iaia, M.D., section chief for Neuroradiology at ChristianaCare and an assistant professor of Radiology at Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College, presented on CT and MRI findings of inflammatory disorders that affect the salivary glands, ranging from common entities such as salivary duct stones to more rare disorders. He also contrasted conventional sialography and noninvasive MRI sialography, technologies used for evaluating ductal structures of the major salivary glands.
- Adam Raben, M.D., chair of Radiation Oncology at ChristianaCare, presented the latest updates on the use of adjuvant radiotherapy after surgery for cancers of the parotid gland as well as emerging clinical trials evaluating chemotherapy to improve outcomes. This was in conjunction with a panel of experts who discussed radiotherapy for inoperable disease as well as emerging biomarkers for potential immunotherapy.
- Gerard Fulda, M.D., chair of Surgery, served on the executive planning committee and Head and Neck surgeon Neil Hockstein M.D., served on the scientific program committee that reviewed and selected 38 abstracts for presentation.
Dr. Witt, who holds a professorship in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College, also moderated a panel on surgical advances for benign tumors. The panel that discussed his work was supported by the philanthropy of Carl Barthlomaus, who is also a donor to ChristianaCare.
ChristianaCare, Penn Medicine and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College hosted the event at the University of Pennsylvania’s Smilow Center for Translational Research.