A New Class of Pain Medicine from Cancer Cells – PD-L1 inhibits acute & chronic pain


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For the nonscientist, this report may explain better:

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Cancer actually yields a painkiller

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Scientists have discovered a potent painkiller in an unlikely place — cancer cells.

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This painkiller strongly inhibits acute and chronic pain in mouse models of melanoma, according to a study published Monday in Nature Neuroscience.

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Called PD-L1, the molecule is known to inhibit immune function, which helps cancers evade immune surveillance. It’s also produced in neurons. If it can be used to make an analgesic drug, it would represent a new class of painkillers, something badly needed.

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The molecule acts by targeting a cellular receptor called PD-1 and has been a longstanding target of cancer therapies called checkpoint inhibitors seeking to activate the immune system. But its painkilling effect is news.

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Ru Rong Ji of Duke University was senior author. Gang Chen and Yoang Ho Kim, also of Duke University, were first authors. The study can be found online at j.mp/cancerspain.

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…..Dr. Patel, oncologist from UCSD says: “This could result in a therapy that helps patients in a year or two years, just because so much has been done in the field.”

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The relationship between cancer and pain is complex, Patel said. PD-L1 suppresses inflammation, which activates the immune system, and also causes pain, Patel said. But there are other ways of activating the immune system, such as with the new cancer immunotherapy treatments, which don’t increase pain, he said.

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….The increased pain response is also caused by the cancer drug nivolumab. The drug, sold under the name Opdivo, targets PD-1 and shows success in treating melanomalymphoma and lung cancer. It produced strong allodynia for five hours in the mice, according to the study.

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Nivolumab is one of the new checkpoint inhibitor cancer drugs that targets PD-L1 receptors with immunomodulatory antibodies that are used to enhance the immune system. They can produce a wide spectrum of side effects termed immune-related adverse events (irAEs) with inflammation due to immune enhancement involving several organ systems.

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This is not my field and perhaps I am wrong. But if treating those cancers with immunotherapy causes the worst known neuropathic pain by blocking checkpoint inhibitors, is it possible that a new pain drug having the opposite mechanism could relieve pain but cause cancer?

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This Nature publication references the growing body of work from the lab of Linda Watkins, PhD, et al, published in 2014:

.Pathological pain and the neuroimmune interface

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Reciprocal signalling between immunocompetent cells in the central nervous system (CNS) has emerged as a key phenomenon underpinning pathological and chronic pain mechanisms. Neuronal excitability can be powerfully enhanced both by classical neurotransmitters derived from neurons, and by immune mediators released from CNS-resident microglia and astrocytes, and from infiltrating cells such as T cells.

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