Butler Harris Assistant Professor in Radiation Oncology Yvonne Mowery, MD, PhD, was quoted in an article – "Doctors May Have Found Secretive New Organs in the Center of Your Head" – published in The New York Times on October 19. The article explores the discovery of a potential new structure in the human body: a pair of salivary glands where the throat and the nasal cavity meet.
The journalist, Katherine Wu, PhD, originally reached out via Twitter to Duke medical physicist and Assistant Professor Anna Rodrigues, PhD. After reviewing the paper and questions, Dr. Rodrigues referred the journalist to Dr. Mowery, whose research focuses on head and neck cancer. Read the full article here.
The significance and impact of the "discovery" is still unclear. "Histologic evaluation of this region on two cadavers clearly demonstrated salivary gland tissue, but I think that it is a matter of semantics regarding whether these truly represent a 'new organ' versus minor salivary glands, hundreds of which have long been known to be distributed throughout the aerodigestive tract," said Dr. Mowery. "I was impressed by the association of radiation dose to these structures with xerostomia and dysphagia, even after adjusting for dose to parotid/submandibular glands and pharyngeal constrictor muscles. However, I do not anticipate these structures being incorporated into head and neck normal tissue atlases as organs at risk for head and neck IMRT planning, and I am not ready to change my practice based on this single study."