Cancer pain relief without side effects

Posted by mjs76 at Jun 25, 2010 03:25 PM |
Researchers at the University of Leicester are collaborating with colleagues in Italy to investigate a new type of drug which offers the hope of side-effect-free pain relief to cancer patients.

At the moment, cancer pain is often treated with morphine which has a whole raft of side effects and is also prone to developing a tolerance in patients, which leads to increased dosage - and hence increased side effects. Studies show that 88% of cancer patients in their final year of life are in constant pain; of those who seek treatment, about half report that it is only partially successful.

Professor David Lambert from our Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and Professor David Rowbotham from our Department of Health Sciences, together with PhD student Nikolaos Dietis and researchers at the University of Ferrara in Italy, have been investigating the problem, which boils down to this:

Morphine belongs to a group of substances called opioids and there are three principal opioid receptors, known as MOP, DOP and KOP (plus a fourth, related receptor, NOP). Previous research in this area has looked into producing drugs which specifically  target and ‘switch on’ the MOP receptor. The Leicester/Ferrara research has shown that in fact the best pain relief would come from a drug (or combination of drugs) which reacted with both MOP and DOP, switching on the former while switching off the latter. Initial research suggests that such a treatment would provide pain relief without any side effects.

For his PhD, Nikolaos is studying UFP-505, which fulfils both functions: it is a MOP agonist and a DOP antagonist. Nikolaos’ work was presented yesterday at the University’s annual Festival of Postgraduate Research, where his poster won an award.