According to an article published in Radiotherapy and Oncology, previously unnoticed bilateral macroscopic salivary glands were discovered on positron emission tomography/computed tomography with prostate-specific membrane antigen ligands (PSMA PET/CT) imaging of cancer patients.
After noticing the presence of these structures in a PSMA PET/CT image, the investigators performed a retrospective cohort analysis of 100 consecutively scanned patients with prostate or urethral gland cancer to elucidate the characteristics of the unknown entity and its potential clinical implications for radiotherapy.
The effect of radiotherapy on salivation and swallowing was retrospectively investigated using prospectively collected clinical data from a cohort of head-neck cancer patients (n = 723).
According to the results, all patients demonstrated a demarcated bilateral PSMA-positive area (average length 4 cm). Histology and 3D reconstruction confirmed the presence of PSMA-expressing, predominantly mucous glands with multiple draining ducts, predominantly near the torus tubarius. In the head-neck cancer patients, the mean radiotherapy dose to the gland area was significantly associated with physician-rated post-treatment xerostomia and dysphagia.
The authors propose these structures be named tubarial glands, and say that sparing these glands in patients receiving RT may provide an opportunity to improve their quality of life.