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Drug Saf. 1993 Sep;9(3):185-95.

Cancer therapy and oral mucositis. An appraisal of drug prophylaxis.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson.


Oral mucositis as a consequence of cytotoxic therapy is a major cause of morbidity in cancer patients. Cancer therapy-induced tissue damage leading to mucositis can occur through either direct or indirect stomatotoxicity. Once mucositis has occurred, treatment consists of measures to palliate symptoms. The prevention of cancer therapy-induced oral mucositis is less standardised. Numerous drugs have been used as prophylactic agents to prevent chemo- and radiotherapy-induced mucositis. Controlled trials have shown some degree of prophylactic efficacy for sucralfate, chlorhexidine and benzydamine. Positive but non-placebo-controlled trials requiring more study have been conducted with dinoprostone (prostaglandin E2), silver nitrate, beta-carotene, pentoxifylline and lozenges containing polymixin B, tobramycin and amphotericin B. Current studies have shown a lack of efficacy with allopurinol and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). Nonpharmacological methods such as oral cryotherapy and helium-neon laser treatments have shown some promise. At the present time no agent has been shown to be uniformly efficacious and can be accepted as standard therapy. Additional studies combining several agents or incorporating nonpharmacological manoeuvres for mucositis prevention are needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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