SEP 19, 2017 2:59 PM PDT

Melatonin Could Ease Chemo Pains

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Image credit: Pixabay.com

A common over-the-counter drug that pilots often take to alleviate jetlag may also help cancer patients ease the pain from chemotherapy.

According to a new study from the University of Edinburg, the drug melatonin blocks the pain signals from chemo-damaged nerve cells in rats.

The findings were based on research on a common condition known as chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain (CINP). Patients suffering from this condition often report tingling and sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. It’s thought that the chemotherapy agents damage nerve cells, causing such painful sensations.

In animal studies, researchers found that melatonin had the best effect if given before chemotherapy. That is, if given prior to the start of chemotherapy, nerve damage is reduced. If given after CINP has already developed, melatonin seemed to be ineffective. This suggest that melatonin is more of a preventative therapy for CINP, rather than a curative one.  

"These results are promising, especially as melatonin treatment is known to be safe in other conditions. However, more work will need to be done before we know if melatonin will help prevent pain in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy,” said Dr. Helen Galley, a professor at the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, and the study’s co-lead author. It’s not entirely clear how melatonin reduces nerve damage from chemotherapy.

Under normal conditions, the body produces melatonin at night to prepare us for rest and sleep. Synthetic version of melatonin also exist and function in a similar fashion. In the US, the drug is available over the counter, but in some other countries, a prescription is required.

"We are actively exploring an early-phase clinical study to see if these exciting laboratory findings might translate to direct benefit for patients undergoing chemotherapy. This is an area of real unmet need, where new therapies are urgently required,” said Dr. Lesley Colvin, a pain specialist at the University of Edinburgh, and a study co-author.

It’s estimated that CINP affects nearly 70 percent of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The condition can worsen the quality of life for patients undergoing treatment. Furthermore, CINP can persist in some patients even after chemotherapy. As such, finding a drug that can reduce the occurrence of this condition would benefit patients and caregivers.

"CINP can have a devastating impact on patients, and may limit chemotherapy doses, with potentially serious consequences. These findings are very exciting and suggest that melatonin could prevent CINP by protecting nerve cell mitochondria. Our next steps will be to further test this theory by looking at the effect of melatonin in other pain conditions that also involve mitochondrial damage,” said Dr. Carole Torsney, the study’s co-leader.

Additional sources: University of Edinburg via Science Daily

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 01, 2020
Cancer
Understanding in vivo Metabolomics: C13 Isotope Studies
OCT 01, 2020
Understanding in vivo Metabolomics: C13 Isotope Studies
One key to understanding cancer metabolomics lies in the ability to accurately replicate the natural environment of the ...
OCT 05, 2020
Health & Medicine
Cannabis Chemotherapy Trial Shows Encouraging Phase II Results
OCT 05, 2020
Cannabis Chemotherapy Trial Shows Encouraging Phase II Results
Even with the best anti-nausea medications one in three patients receiving chemotherapy experiences vomiting, and about ...
OCT 18, 2020
Microbiology
Mouth Microbes Play a Role in Oral Cancer Development
OCT 18, 2020
Mouth Microbes Play a Role in Oral Cancer Development
Oral hygiene is not only important for keeping teeth and gums healthy; it can also affect a person's health in general.
NOV 18, 2020
Cancer
Could Targeting the Proteasome be Effective Against Cancer?
NOV 18, 2020
Could Targeting the Proteasome be Effective Against Cancer?
One of the trickiest things about anti-cancer drug design is targeting. Today, most drugs on the market target critical ...
NOV 30, 2020
Cancer
Using deep learning to identify breast cancer biomarkers in mammograms
NOV 30, 2020
Using deep learning to identify breast cancer biomarkers in mammograms
A team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has developed a deep learning model capable of predicting a patient&rsq ...
DEC 01, 2020
Cancer
The price tag of prostate cancer treatment
DEC 01, 2020
The price tag of prostate cancer treatment
New research published in The Journal of Urology from the Official Journal of the American Urological Association&n ...
Loading Comments...