This review summarises the large number of locally and systemically applied preventive and therapeutic interventions of mucositis in patients with cancer. The need for further elucidation of the pathophysiology and for optimisation of trial methodology is emphasised. Data from trials in animal models and preliminary data in patients indicate that cytokines such as interleukin-1, interleukin-11, TGF-β3 and keratinocyte growth factor could reduce the incidence of mucositis. Other potentially useful agents are the angiogenesis-inhibiting drug thalidomide, the cytoprotector amifostine and the pineal hormone melatonin. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.