New MASCC/ISOO Guidelines for Managing Mucositis

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Updated clinical practice guidelines for managing mucositis—a common and often debilitating complication of cancer therapy—were recently published by Elad et al in the journal Cancer. The new guidelines summary, which will provide health-care professionals with better tools to deliver care for patients, is the result of a literature review and clinical interpretation by the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer/International Society of Oral Oncology (MASCC/ISOO). The MASCC/ISOO charged its Mucositis Study Group, comprised of 250 experts from 33 countries, to conduct the systematic review.

Led by Sharon Elad, DMD, MSc, Professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Eastman Institute for Oral Health, the Mucositis Study Group's major goal is to improve outcomes of patients experiencing mucositis associated with cancer therapies.

Sharon Elad, DMD, MSc

Sharon Elad, DMD, MSc

Mucositis affects the inner lining of the oral and gastrointestinal tract. Oral mucositis often leads to difficulty eating and swallowing; gastrointestinal mucositis is associated with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, intestinal cramping, and anal pain. For patients who are immunosuppressed, oral mucositis is associated with greater risk for bacteremia, which has possible systemic implications. Patients experiencing mucositis often require enteral or parenteral nutrition, consume more opioids, and experience more interruptions to cancer therapy than patients who do not experience mucositis.

Recommendations From the Guidelines

Highlights from this newly published summary paper include additional recommendations for the use of photobiomodulation therapy and benzydamine, as well as a stronger guideline statement for cryotherapy. Each of these guidelines is defined for a specific setting and patient population.

“Interestingly, natural honey had sufficient evidence, when used topically and then swallowed, to suggest possible mucositis prevention for patients with head and neck cancer who receive treatment with either radiotherapy or radiochemotherapy,” said Dr. Elad.

“But it's important to note that the long-term effect of this intervention is unclear at this point,” she added. “Even with the best evidence-based interventions, we don't have an ultimate guideline for mucositis in all clinical settings. Future research will hopefully identify better interventions that will relieve the patient's pain and improve quality of life.”

This summary paper captures the highlights of a series of frequently cited detailed publications describing the approach to various categories of interventions. This includes the following categories for oral mucositis:

  • Anti-inflammatory agents
  • Photobiomodulation therapy
  • Protocols categorized as basic oral care
  • Growth factors and cytokines
  • Antimicrobials, mucosal coating agents, anesthetics, and analgesics
  • Cryotherapy
  • Vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements
  • Natural and miscellaneous agents.

Likewise, it includes a guidelines publication about all interventions for gastrointestinal mucositis.

The study authors wrote, “The guidelines covers evidence from 1,197 publications related to oral or gastrointestinal mucositis. Thirteen new guidelines were developed for or against the use of various interventions in specific treatment settings, and 11 previous guidelines were confirmed after a review of new evidence. Thirteen previously established guidelines were carried over because there was no new evidence for these interventions.”

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.