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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2 (2005), Issue 4, Pages 489-494

The Molecular Immunology of Mucositis: Implications for Evidence-Based Research in Alternative and Complementary Palliative Treatments

Division of Oral Biology and Medicine, UCLA School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668, USA

Received 3 January 2005; Accepted 15 September 2005

Copyright © 2005 Francesco Chiappelli. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The terms ‘mucositis’ and ‘stomatitis’ are often used interchangeably. Mucositis, however, pertains to pharyngeal-esophago-gastrointestinal inflammation that manifests as red, burn-like sores or ulcerations throughout the mouth. Stomatitis is an inflammation of the oral tissues proper, which can present with or without sores, and is made worse by poor dental hygiene. Mucositis is observed in a variety of immunosuppressed patients, but is most often consequential to cancer therapy. It appears as early as the third day of intervention, and is usually established by Day 7 of treatment. Mucositis increases mortality and morbidity and contributes to rising health care costs. The precise immune components involved in the etiology of mucositis are unclear, but evidence-based research (EBR) data has shown that applications of granulocyte–macrophage-colony stimulating factor prevent the onset or the exacerbation of oropharyngeal mucositis. The molecular implications of this observation are discussed from the perspective of future developments of complementary and alternative treatments for this condition. It must be emphasized that this article is meant to be neither a review on mucositis and the various treatments for it, nor a discussion paper on its underlying molecular immunology. It is a statement of the implications of EBR for CAM-based interventions for mucositis. It explores and discusses the specific domain of molecular immunology in the context of mucositis and its direct implications for EBR research in CAM-based treatments for mucositis.