January 10, 2013
Dr. Chi Tonglien Viet, an investigator and adjunct professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the New York University College of Dentistry, has received a grant of $75,000 for the second consecutive year from the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation to support her study entitled “Novel Approaches to Treat Head and Neck Cancer Pain and Prevent Opioid Tolerance.” The study will be conducted at the NYU Bluestone Center for Clinical Research and the NYU Cancer Pain Laboratory, both of which are directed by Dr. Brian Schmidt.
Dr. Viet’s grant was also selected to receive the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation’s 2013 Stephen B. Milam Award. This annual award recognizes Dr. Stephen B. Milam’s scientific research and his many contributions to the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery.
For most cancer patients, pain creates a poor quality of life. Patients with head and neck cancer tend to have significantly more pain than other cancer patients. Currently, opioids, such as morphine, are the most effective treatment for head and neck cancer pain. However, once patients become opioid-tolerant, no equally effective analgesics exist. Dr. Viet will explore a method to identify patients most at risk for opioid tolerance. She will also test innovative treatments, including viral gene delivery, to restore opioid sensitivity and treat cancer pain.
“For head and neck cancer patients who will not survive their disease, which unfortunately is fifty percent of patients,” said Dr. Schmidt, “pain dramatically impacts their remaining life span. Dr. Viet has spearheaded an avenue of investigation that is providing insight into the mechanisms of cancer pain. Now, in this project, Dr. Viet will use an epigenetic marker to identify patients at risk for cancer pain and then use cutting-edge molecular approaches to treat cancer pain. Since chemotherapeutic drugs are keeping cancer patients alive longer, we need such creative scientific approaches to tackle cancer pain. I knew Dr. Milam personally. He devoted his professional life to pain research. He would be inspired by the challenging work that Dr. Viet has undertaken and thrilled that her project received the award established in his honor.”
Dr. Charles Bertolami, Dean of the NYU College of Dentistry, said, “Dr. Viet is an ideal clinician-scientist to direct this project, which could improve the lives of patients suffering from head and neck cancer. With support from this grant, Dr. Viet will continue to move the field of cancer pain research forward.”
Dr. Chi Viet is a third-year resident in the MD-degree Program in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at NYU. She is an investigator at the NYU Bluestone Center for Clinical Research and Cancer Pain Laboratory. She received her DDS and PhD degrees from the University of California, San Francisco.