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Common pain relief medication may encourage cancer growth
Date:11/18/2009

opiate-induced constipation by the late University of Chicago pharmacologist Leon Goldberg. Goldberg modified an established drug that blocks morphine so that it could no longer cross the protective barrier that surrounds the brain. So MNTX blocks morphine's peripheral side effects but does not interfere with its effect on pain, which is centered in the brain. It won FDA approval in 2008.

"These were patients with advanced cancer and a life expectancy of one to two months," Moss recalled, "yet several lived for another five or six. It made us wonder whether this was just a consequence of better GI function or could there possibly be an effect on the tumors."

So Singleton, Moss and colleagues, including Joe G.N. Garcia, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, began a series of studies looking at the many peripheral effects of opiates and the potential benefits of blocking those effects.

In laboratory studies, morphine can directly boost tumor-cell proliferation and inhibit the immune response. The researchers found that opiates also promote angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels, and decrease barrier function--effects that may exacerbate diseases involving vascular leakiness including acute lung injury in experimental models. In a surgical setting, decreased barrier function may make it easier for tumors to invade tissue and spread to distant sites. Increased angiogenesis helps cancers thrive in a new site.

In the studies to be presented Nov. 18, Singleton and colleagues focus on the mu opiate receptor as a regulator of tumor growth and metastasis and examine the ability of methylnaltrexone to attenuate these effects.

Using two different models of non-small cell lung cancer, the research teams showed that MNTX inhibited the tumor-promoting effects of opiates. In one study, using bronchioloalveolar carcinoma cells, MNTX blocked oncogenic signaling and prevented tumor-cell proliferation and migration
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Contact: John Easton
john.easton@uchospitals.edu
773-702-6241
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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