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Mucositis: pathobiology and management

Villa, Alessandro; Sonis, Stephen T.

doi: 10.1097/CCO.0000000000000180
HEAD AND NECK: Edited by Gilberto de Castro Jr.

Purpose of review Oral mucositis remains a frequent debilitating toxicity associated with drug and radiation regimens used to treat cancer. This review highlights the recent understanding of the biological basis, risk factors for, and management for oral mucositis.

Recent findings Prevalence and incidence data for mucositis are inconsistent and often underreported. The pathogenesis of mucositis encompasses a sequence of biological events possibly influenced by the oral microbiome and environment. Despite its frequency and severity, there is currently no effective treatment available for the majority of patients at risk. However, with the better understanding of the pathogenesis of mucositis a number of new drugs and biological agents are under investigation. Genome-wide risk prediction tools will allow the identification of patients at risk of developing mucositis.

Summary Oral mucositis is a common complication of cancer treatment that may negatively impact the patient's cancer treatment outcome. Despite its frequency and consequences, the lack of effective interventions has frustrated patients and caregivers. Fortunately, a broad range of mechanistically targeted compounds are being developed.

Division of Oral Medicine and Dentistry, Brigham and Women's Hospital

Department of Oral Medicine, Infection and Immunity, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Dr Stephen T. Sonis, Division of Oral Medicine and Dentistry, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 1620 Tremont Street, Suite BC-3-028, Boston, MA 02120, USA. Tel: +1 617 732 5517; fax: +1 617 232 8970; e-mail:

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