Sore mouth and ulcers (oral mucositis) is a side effect of treatment for cancer including chemotherapy, head and neck radiotherapy, and targeted therapy, affecting over 75% of high-risk patients. Ulcers can lead to severe pain and difficulty with eating and drinking. Sufferers may need strong painkillers, possibly have to go into hospital and even be fed through a tube into their stomach or their veins. These complications may disrupt their cancer therapy, meaning they are not receiving the best treatment, which may reduce survival. Cancer patients have weakened immune systems due to their treatment and are less able to fight infections. An ulcer is an open wound and there is a risk that bacteria can enter the body leading to infection or sepsis (a dangerous inflammatory reaction of the body to infection).
Mouth soreness and ulcers can be costly to healthcare systems, yet there are few preventive interventions or treatments proven to be beneficial. Cytokines and growth factors may help the regeneration of cells lining the mouth, thus preventing or reducing oral mucositis and its negative effects.