21 June 2010

New drugs to relieve cancer pain

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Pioneering research at the Universities of Leicester and Ferrara tests new drugs that could relieve cancer pain

Researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Ferrara in Italy have collaborated to develop new drugs which have the potential to relieve cancer pain without causing many of the side effects of current pain-treatments like morphine.

Figures show that 90% of cancer patients experience pain in the final year of their lives and this is a big problem. Currently, the use of drugs like morphine produces side effects such as depressed breathing, drowsiness, constipation and tolerance. Unfortunately tolerance usually results in an increased dose of morphine, which in turn means that patients experience more of these side effects.

Professors David Lambert and David Rowbotham at the University of Leicester, as well as Doctors Guerrini, Calo and Professor Salvadori from the University of Ferrara in Italy, are leading the early experiments of a new group of drugs which may not produce these side effects. The research done at the University of Leicester has been funded by the Leicestershire and Rutland charity Hope Against Cancer.

Professor David Lambert commented:

"This work is still at a very early stage but has the potential to change the way we think about making drugs for pain related issues."

The new group of drugs, which were developed in the University of Ferrara and tested by the University of Leicester, is designed to produce pain relief by acting at two targets simultaneously. The two target idea may provide effective pain relief with less tolerance.

Hope Against Cancer has funded this 3-year PhD project at the University of Leicester to look at the long term effects of these new drugs, with a primary focus on drug tolerance.

Nikolaos Dietis, the PhD research student who is currently working on the project, said:

"Tolerance to strong painkillers like morphine involves complicated biological processes, aspects of which still remain questionable. Our research may provide some answers by designing new drugs that have multiple roles. We are now studying these drugs to see what they do in the long-term."

(EurekAlert!)

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