Introduction: Oral mucositis is a significant unmet clinical need for many cancer patients. The biological complexity of mucositis’ pathogenesis provides a number of mechanistic targets suitable as pharmacologic targets. The diversity of targets has stimulated drug development in search of an effective intervention. In this paper, we review a range of agents that are currently being evaluated.

Areas covered: Drugs for management of oral mucositis vary in formulation, route of administration and biological target. Most propose to interrupt the initiation of injury by suppressing activation of the innate immune response or countering oxidative stress, or minimizing downstream inflammatory responses. Overwhelmingly, the population most studied is patients being treated with concomitant chemoradiation for cancers of the head and neck as this is the cohort that most consistently suffers severe mucositis for long periods of time. The Phase 2 pipeline is robust. Preliminary data reported for a number of agents is optimistic. Genomics may be important in interpreting and comparing responses to agents across widely demographically diverse populations.

Expert opinion: Oral mucositis remains a significant toxicity for patients undergoing cancer treatment. Incremental reports of successes have been noted for a number of targeted agents.

Keywords: Oral mucositis; biological targets; phase 2 studies.