How to feed patients with gastrointestinal mucositis

Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2018 Jun;12(2):168-173. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000345.


Purpose of review: Gastrointestinal mucositis is a frequent side effect of systemic anticancer treatment and radiotherapy. The occurrence endangers body resources by decreasing food intake and absorption. This review highlights new developments in treatment and prevention.

Recent findings: Recent clinical practice guidelines recommend supplying adequate amounts of energy and nutrients to cancer patients undergoing anticancer treatments. This requires repeated screening for risk of malnutrition and in at-risk patients, assessment of food intake and nutritional status, followed by nutritional interventions targeted at individual deficiencies and tolerance to oral, enteral or parenteral feeding. Recent preclinical data report beneficial effects of stimulating the sensor for cell damage signals TRPA1, blocking histamine H2 receptors or supplying probiotics. In a recent clinical trial, amifostine reduced gastrointestinal symptoms and was well tolerated. Probiotics are studied in ongoing clinical trials and glucagon-like peptide 2 analogues are considered for future trials. Due to limited options available today, it has been suggested to also consider several plant-based complementary therapies.

Summary: Although options for prevention and treatment of chemotherapy or radiotherapy-induced gastrointestinal mucositis today are still limited, inadequate energy and nutrient intake should trigger nutritional interventions, including counselling, oral nutritional supplements, tube feeding and parenteral nutrition. To prevent gastrointestinal mucositis, several new agents have shown promising results in preclinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Counseling
  • Histamine H2 Antagonists
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis*
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control
  • Mucositis / etiology*
  • Mucositis / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Support / methods*
  • Palliative Care
  • Parenteral Nutrition / methods
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage
  • TRPA1 Cation Channel / agonists
  • Weight Loss


  • Histamine H2 Antagonists
  • TRPA1 Cation Channel
  • TRPA1 protein, human