Over 90% of patients treated for head and neck cancer with curatively aimed chemo or bioradiotherapy will develop painful mucositis and xerostomia. Sublingually delivered fentanyl (SDL) is a rapid acting opioid to treat breakthrough pain. It is unclear how SDL is absorbed by the mucosa of these patients. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effects of mucositis and xerostomia on the absorption of SDL. Thirteen patients who received chemo or bioradiotherapy (RT), were given a single dose of fentanyl: Before start of RT, 3 and 6 weeks after start of RT, and 6 weeks after finishing RT. Pharmacokinetic samples were taken. The primary endpoint was the relative difference (RD) between systemic exposure to fentanyl (area under the curve; AUC) at baseline (AUCbaseline) and fentanyl AUC in the presence of mucositis grade ≥2. The secondary endpoint was the RD between AUCbaseline and fentanyl AUC in the presence of xerostomia, which were analyzed by means of a paired t-test on log-transformed data. Mucositis resulted in a 12.7% higher AUC (n = 13; 95% CI: −10.7% to +42.2%, p = 0.29) compared to baseline levels and xerostomia resulted in a 22.4% lower AUC (n = 8; 95% CI: −51.9% to +25.3%, p = 0.25) compared to baseline levels. Mucositis grade ≥2 or xerostomia caused by chemo or bioradiotherapy does not significantly alter the systemic exposure to SDL. Patients with pain during and after chemo or bioradiotherapy may be safely treated with SDL.

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doi.org/10.3390/cancers10110445, hdl.handle.net/1765/112534
Department of Medical Oncology

Kuip, E., Oldenmenger, W., Oomen - de Hoop, E., Verduijn, G., Thijs-Visser, M., de Bruijn, P., … van der Rijt, C. (2018). Pharmacokinetics of sublingually delivered fentanyl in head and neck cancer patients treated with curatively aimed chemo or bioradiotherapy. Cancers, 10(11). doi:10.3390/cancers10110445