Man suffering from abdominal pains

Radiation Enteritis

What is Radiation Enteritis?

Radiation Enteritis is an inflammatory bowel condition resulting from radiation damage to the abdominal and pelvic areas. Acute Radiation Enteritis occurs during or immediately after a radiation treatment course while the chronic disease represents an inadequate healing process in the intestines after radiation damage.

Radiation enteritis occurs to some degree in almost all patients treated with radiation directed at the abdomen or pelvic area. This includes most patients with cancer of the bladder, uterus, cervix, rectum, prostate, and vagina. The bowel is very sensitive to radiation damage.

Acute radiation enteritis generally occurs around the second week of radiation treatment and includes symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fecal urgency and loss of appetite.

Chronic radiation enteritis occurs after radiation is complete. Symptoms vary and may include pain after eating, acute or intermittent small bowel obstruction, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, diarrhea, inability to extract nutrients from food eaten and the excretion of fat in feces. Chronic radiation enteritis is often associated with a thickening or scarring of the intestinal lining (called fibrosis) which is believed to have been caused by the initial radiation damage and subsequent inflammatory response.

Some Quick Facts

  • There are over 100,000 patients annually in the US receiving abdominal or pelvic radiation treatment for cancer who are at risk of developing acute and chronic radiation enteritis
  • Chronic radiation enteritis may occur in up to 20% of patients and typically develops between 18 months and 6 years after completion of therapy
  • The risk of radiation enteritis is higher in people undergoing radiation treatments for cancers in the stomach and the pelvis

More information about Radiation Enteritis can be found at the National Cancer Institute.

Symptoms of Radiation Enteritis

Symptoms of Acute Radiation Enteritis include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Frequent urges to have a bowel movement
  • Rectal pain, bleeding, or mucus in the stool
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Fatigue

Symptoms of Chronic Radiation Enteritis include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Frequent urges to have a bowel movement
  • Greasy and fatty stools
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea

Disease progression may be associated with malformation of the gastrointestinal tract that requires surgery to ameliorate.

Treatment Options

Treatment is generally limited to supportive care, including:

  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Anticholinergic antispasmodic agent for abdominal pain
  • Pain medication
  • Dietary treatment (to increase caloric intake where needed)
  • Sucralfate for indigestion
  • Sometimes surgery can be recommended to bypass the affected area of the intestine

Where Soligenix Comes in

SGX201 is an alternative steroid anti-inflammatory treatment specifically directed to the lower intestine. The active ingredient in SGX201 is beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP), a very well-characterized steroid that has a reduced ability to cross into the bloodstream.

By administering BDP as a tablet which dissolves in the lower intestine, a topical coating of BDP through the lower intestine can be achieved,  providing direct anti-inflammatory action where it is needed while reducing the penetration of the steroid to the blood stream. This may reduce the toxicity of steroid treatment, while maintaining the steroid activity where it is needed.

SGX201 has been evaluated in a Phase 1/2 clinical study, with additional Phase 2 studies planned.

Helpful Resources

Information on radiation enteritis progression and treatment options is also available at the following sites: