Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching how pain occurs in nerves in the periphery of the body.
Dr Marzia Malcangio said: "We have been investigating and identifying mechanisms underlying pain generation and our findings could help chemotherapy patients who suffer pain related side effects."
One potential side effect of some chemotherapy drugs (such as vincristine) is damage to nerves. This is particularly prominent in hands and feet as the drugs affect nerves in the periphery of the body. This causes pain which doctors treat with painkillers. However, some people find that the pain persists.
Dr Malcangio's team investigated why the chemotherapy drugs were causing pain in hope to solve the problem. The used mice in the study because mice given the chemotherapy drug also experienced pain in their nerve extremities (such as their hind-paws).
By studying the mice, they found that the pain was caused by the mouse's own immune system responding to damaged blood vessels.
Dr Marzia Malcangio explained: "The chemotherapy drug was found to cause damage to blood vessels around the nerves. When this happened, immune cells leave the blood flow and enter the nerve to help reduce the inflammation, but they also activate pain. Chemicals released naturally by the immune cells were activating the nerves and producing pain."
To try to prevent the pain, researchers looked at ways of stopping the immune cells entering the nerve. They identified receptors on the outside of the immune cells that could be targeted to stop their exit from blood, constituting new types of pain treatment.
Dr Marzia Malcangio added: "We have discovered that the pain responses are caused by local activation of pain nerves by immune cells and that this could be prevented. Our result can be exploited to produce drugs that, given in combination with treatment, may limit the pain experienced by patients during chemotherapy cycles."
Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive said: "This BBSRC CASE studentship has enabled a mutually beneficial research collaboration between academia and industry. Understanding the biological mechanisms of pain, using this mouse model, could lead to new types of pain management."
Chris Melvin, Press Officer, BBSRC Press Office
Tel: + (0) 1793 414 694
Jenny Gimpel, PR Manager (Health), King's College London
Tel: + (0) 207 848 4334
Notes to editors:
The research was supported by a BBSRC CASE PhD studentship sponsored by Lilly
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About King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 20 universities in the world (2013/14 QS World University Rankings), and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has nearly 23,500 students (of whom more than 9,000 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 6,000 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
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