Mucositis is a frequent and debilitating side effect of anticancer chemotherapy, affecting the majority of patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy or undergoing preconditioning chemotherapy regimens to prepare for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. This phenomenon is due to the inability of chemotherapy agents, to discriminate between neoplastic and normal cells with rapid turnover.
Mucositis is characterized by ulcerating lesions lining the entire gastrointestinal tract (from the mouth to the colon) associated with increased epithelial cell death leading to symptoms like abdominal pain, intense diarrhoea, vomiting and weight loss. The breakdown of the gastrointestinal protective barrier, together with profound neutropenia induced by chemotherapy, facilitates the translocation of pathogenic bacteria into the organism of already vulnerable patients and predisposes to systemic life-threatening infections. Therefore, mucositis has a dramatically negative effect on the quality of life or cancer-fighting patients leading sometimes to discontinuation of therapy or decrease of the therapeutic dose levels. No truly effective therapies are currently available for this distressing disorder. Preventing administration of broad spectrum antibiotics is the only therapeutic tool used by clinicians but this approach is heavy, expensive and often leads to highly-resistant bacteria to antibiotics.