Scientists from the University of Edinburgh and Aberdeen have found in a research that Melatonin drug could be used to prevent pain caused by chemotherapy treatment. Melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone that controls sleeping patterns, could also be produced in laboratories. It is currently used to reduce sleep disturbance.
According to the Journal of Pineal research, the study on rats showed that the drug blocked harmful effects caused by chemotherapy on the nerve cells. Severe pain, tingling and sensation to touch and cold temperatures, known as Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathic Pain (CINP), have been forcing many patients to stop the treatment course. The study showed that melatonin, given prior to chemotherapy, limited the damage to nerve cells and development of pain symptoms.
According to the journal, melatonin drug given while the CINP was increasing did not reduce the pain implying that prevention rather than cure is the major benefit of the drug. The studies also say that it does not interfere with the benefits of the chemotherapy treatments in human breast and ovarian cancers.
"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 require," said Prof Lesley Colvin, a pain specialist at the University of Edinburgh.
Researchers have found that melatonin reduces damages inflicted on mitochondria, or the powerhouse/energy centers of the cells, during chemotherapy. The experts said protection of these power centers could help prevent CINP.
According to the research, CINP effects include pain during daily activities like fastening buttons or walking barefoot is found in 70% of the patients, even after the disease is cured. This could prevent a person from returning to his work schedule or carrying out any household activities.
"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 Prof Helen Galley from the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen.
"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." stated Dr. Carole Torsney from the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Integrative Physiology.