A team of researchers in the Netherland Cancer Institute (NCI) has found a set of previously unidentified pair of large salivary glands lurking in the nook where the nasal cavity meets the throat. This new discovery in the nasopharyngeal region, behind the nose and above the throat, could be the first set of major glands to be found in the human body in 300 years.
The researchers have confirmed the presence of this new gland after performing scans of 100 patients and dissection upon two cadavers. Previously, they first noticed these pair of glands while probing for damage to salivary glands after radiotherapy for cancer in the head, neck, or brain. The researchers found something unusual when they used a new technique PSMA PET/CT scan upon patients with prostate cancer.
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Dr. Wouter V. radiation oncologist at NCI said in a release that so far the only salivary or mucous gland in the nasopharynx are microscopically small, and up to 1000 which are evenly spread out throughout the mucosa. So they were highly surprised upon finding these new glands, which they have proposed to name ‘tubarial glands’. These glands of average 4cm are found draped over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius.
Vogel is of the opinion that the reason tubarial glands weren’t discovered before is that; researchers had not previously used PSMA PET/CT to look for salivary glands. Secondly, these glands are located in a region that’s hard to access with standard surgical procedures.
There is possibility that this new discovery would have implications for radiotherapy, leading to improvement in the quality of life for people who undergo it for cancers of the head and neck.