Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Common pain relief medication may encourage cancer growth

Date:
November 19, 2009
Source:
University of Chicago Medical Center
Summary:
Although morphine has been the gold-standard treatment for postoperative and chronic cancer pain for two centuries, a growing body of evidence is showing that opiate-based painkillers can stimulate the growth and spread of cancer cells. Two new studies advance that argument and demonstrate how shielding lung cancer cells from opiates reduces cell proliferation, invasion and migration in both cell-culture and mouse models.

Although morphine has been the gold-standard treatment for postoperative and chronic cancer pain for two centuries, a growing body of evidence is showing that opiate-based painkillers can stimulate the growth and spread of cancer cells. Two new studies advance that argument and demonstrate how shielding lung cancer cells from opiates reduces cell proliferation, invasion and migration in both cell-culture and mouse models.

Related Articles


The reports--to be presented November 18, 2009, at "Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics," a joint meeting in Boston of the American Association for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer--highlight the mu opiate receptor, where morphine works, as a potential therapeutic target.

"If confirmed clinically, this could change how we do surgical anesthesia for our cancer patients," said Patrick A. Singleton, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center and principal author of both studies. "It also suggests potential new applications for this novel class of drugs which should be explored."

The proposition that opiates influence cancer recurrence, prompted by several unrelated clinical and laboratory studies, has gradually gained support. It started with a 2002 palliative-care trial in which patients who received spinal rather than systemic pain relief survived longer. Soon after that, Singleton's colleague, anesthesiologist Jonathan Moss, noticed that several cancer patients receiving a selective opiate blocker in a compassionate-use protocol lived longer than expected. Two recent retrospective studies found that breast and prostate cancer patients who received regional rather than general anesthesia had fewer recurrences. In February, 2009, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation highlighted the issue.

Moss's palliative-care patients were taking methylnaltrexone (MNTX), developed in the 1980s for 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.

In the other study, using Lewis lung carcinoma cells, mice without the mu opiate receptor did not develop the tumors that normal mice did when injected with cancer cells. The researchers further showed that MNTX reduced proliferation of cancer cells by 90 percent in normal mice. It also prevented invasion in cell culture and tumor growth and metastasis in mice.

The opioid receptor promotes Lewis lung cancer tumor growth, angiogenesis and metastasis, the authors conclude in a summary of the second study. "Methylnaltrexone attenuates these oncogenic effects."

"In conjunction with previous studies on opiate-induced angiogenesis by our laboratory and others, these experimental data suggest a plausible explanation for the epidemiologic observations," notes Moss, professor of anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Chicago. "If these laboratory studies are confirmed clinically, the selection of anesthetic technique used during the operative procedure and the possible use of opiate antagonists in the perioperative period may be important."

Additional contributors to the project include Frances Lennon, PhD, Biji Mathew, PhD, and Ravi Salgia, MD, all of the University of Chicago.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Medical Center. "Common pain relief medication may encourage cancer growth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091118143209.htm>.
University of Chicago Medical Center. (2009, November 19). Common pain relief medication may encourage cancer growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091118143209.htm
University of Chicago Medical Center. "Common pain relief medication may encourage cancer growth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091118143209.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Adults Only Get The Flu Twice A Decade, Researchers Say

Adults Only Get The Flu Twice A Decade, Researchers Say

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) Researchers found adults only get the flu about once every five years. Scientists analyzed how a person&apos;s immunity builds up over time as well. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) A newly discovered hormone mimics the effects of exercise, protecting against diabetes and weight gain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mount Everest Has a Poop Problem

Mount Everest Has a Poop Problem

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) With no bathrooms to use, climbers of Mount Everest have been leaving human waste on the mountain for years, and it&apos;s becoming a health issue. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) has more. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Tips to 'Skinny' Your Home

The Best Tips to 'Skinny' Your Home

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) If you&apos;re looking to reach your health goals this season, there are a few simple tips to help you spring clean your space and improve your nutrition. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the skinny on keeping a healthy home. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins