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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):CD001972.

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

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School of Dentistry, University of Manchester, MANDEC, Higher Cambridge Street, Manchester, UK, M15 6FH.



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 or radiotherapy or both.


Computerised searches of Cochrane Oral Health Group and PaPaS Trials Registers, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CANCERLIT, SIGLE and LILACS 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: June 2006: CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library 2006, Issue 2).


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 review authors. Authors were contacted for details of randomisation and withdrawals and a quality assessment was carried out. Risk ratios were calculated using random-effects models.


Nine trials involving 658 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 (risk ratio (RR) = 3.61, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.47 to 8.88) and clotrimazole, at a higher dose of 50 mg was more effective than a lower 10 mg dose in eradicating oral candidiasis, when assessed mycologically (RR = 2.00, 95% CI 1.11 to 3.60). Of the five trials included in these meta-analyses, three were at high risk of bias and two of moderate risk of bias. Another trial demonstrated no statistically significant difference between a 10 mg 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 10 mg 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.

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