Advances in the understanding and management of mucositis during stem cell transplantation

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Mucositis is a severe and common side effect of anticancer treatments, with an incidence of between 40 and 80% depending on the cytotoxic regimen used. The most profound mucositis burden is experienced during conditioning regimens for hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), where the use of highly mucotoxic agents with or without total body irradiation leads to serious damage throughout the alimentary tract. Currently, the assessment and management of both oral and gastrointestinal mucositis lack authoritative guideline, with recommendations only achieved in narrow clinical scenarios. This review provides a brief overview of current management guidelines for mucositis in both adult and pediatric patients receiving HSCT, highlights recent advances in mucositis prevention and discusses future research avenues.

Recent findings

The Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer and International Society for Oral Oncology (MASCC/ISOO) guidelines for the prevention of mucositis in HSCT are scarce, with low level laser therapy (photobiomodulation) and palifermin only recommended for oral mucositis. Loperamide and octreotide remain gold-standard for the treatment of diarrhea, despite poor efficacy. Although several interventions have been trialled in pediatric cohorts, no recommendations currently exist for children receiving high-dose chemotherapy or total body irradiation for HSCT.

Summary

HSCT continues to be associated with mucositis, which impacts on patients’ ability and willingness to receive engraftment, and worsens clinical outcome. Research into the prevention and treatment of mucositis in this setting remains limited, with an overwhelming amount of small, single-center studies that fail to achieve a sufficient level of evidence that warrant recommendation(s). As such, our ability to manage mucotoxic side effects of high-dose chemotherapy and irradiation is limited, particularly in children.

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