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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD001972.

Interventions for treating oral candidiasis for patients with cancer receiving treatment.

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  • 1Dental Health Services Research Unit, University of Dundee Dental Hospital and School, Park Place, Dundee, UK, DD1 4HN.



Treatment of cancer is increasingly effective but is associated with short and long-term side effects. Oral side effects, including oral candidiasis, remain a major source of illness despite the use of a variety of agents to treat them.


To assess the effectiveness of interventions for the treatment of oral candidiasis for patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy and or radiotherapy.


Computerised searches of Cochrane Oral Health Group Specialised Register, CCTR, MEDLINE and EMBASE were undertaken. Reference lists from relevant articles were searched and the authors of eligible trials were contacted to identify trials and obtain additional information. Date of the most recent searches May 2001: (CCTR 2001, issue 3)


All randomised controlled trials comparing agents prescribed to treat oral candidiasis in people receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer. The outcomes were eradication of oral candidiasis, dysphagia, systemic infection, amount of analgesia, length of hospitalisation, cost and patient quality of life.


Data were independently extracted, in duplicate, by two reviewers. Authors were contacted for details of randomisation and withdrawals and a quality assessment was carried out. The Cochrane Oral Health Group statistical guidelines were followed and relative risk values calculated using random effects models where significant heterogeneity was detected (P<0.1).


Eight trials involving 418 patients, satisfied the inclusion criteria and are included in this review. Only two agents, each in single trials, were found to be effective for eradicating oral candidiasis. A drug absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, ketoconazole, was more beneficial than placebo in eradicating oral candidiasis (RR=0.35 95%CI 0.20 to 0.61) and clotrimazole, at a higher dose of 50mg was more effective than a lower 10mg dose in eradicating oral candidiasis, when assessed mycologically (RR=0.47 95%CI 0.25 to 0.89). Another trial demonstrated no difference between a 10mg dose of the partially absorbed drug, clotrimazole, and placebo. No differences were found when comparing different absorbed drugs; and comparing absorbed drugs with drugs which are not absorbed.


There is weak and unreliable evidence that the absorbed drug, ketoconazole, may eradicate oral candidiasis and that a higher dose of the partially absorbed drug, clotrimazole, may give greater benefit than a lower 10mg dose, however, researchers may wish to prevent rather than treat oral candidiasis. Further well designed, placebo-controlled trials assessing the effectiveness of old and new interventions for treating oral candidiasis are needed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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