Possible Off-Switch for Mesothelioma Pain Found

Your battle against mesothelioma might be easier if you didn’t have to also fight terrible pain at the same time. If researchers are right, you may someday be able to wage your war pain-free.

Suffering no pain would give you a real edge over mesothelioma by perhaps permitting you to tolerate stronger doses of chemotherapy for longer stretches.

It would also boost your spirits. That’s important because, as mesothelioma specialists have long understood, patients in the best emotional shape tend to fight harder to live.

The possibility that you might be able to endure mesothelioma pain-free is raised by research from Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Writing in the November issue of the journal Brain, the researchers announced the discovery of what amounts to an off-switch for shutting down the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

The pain relief that results when this switch flips is described by the researchers as “powerful.”

The researchers — led by Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D., professor of pharmacological and physiological sciences — focused on shutting off neuropathy pain, not mesothelioma pain.

However, they indicated that the same technique could be used to eliminate cancer pain and the pain caused by chemotherapy.

Mesothelioma Patients Could Benefit

When you get right down to it, there are only a handful of ways to reduce or eliminate pain. Each relies on blocking the transmission of pain signals traveling along one of the pathways leading to the brain.

The brain is where those pain signals are interpreted, causing you to experience the sensation of hurt. To reduce pain, doctors give you medications designed to prevent your brain from receiving pain signals.

The medications can be effective but they’re never effective enough. And they usually become less effective the longer you take them. Some of these medications are also highly addictive.

One pain-signal blocker that researchers have for a while now found interesting to study is adenosine.

Adenosine is a purine nucleoside that has use as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Researchers have noted its promise as a highly effective painkiller, but previous attempts to harness it for that purpose ended poorly due to lots of unpleasant side effects.

Pain-Control Breakthrough

Salvemini and her research team achieved an adenosine breakthrough by activating its A3 receptor subtype.

With the A3 receptor turned to the “on” position, its counterpart on the brain and spinal cord prevents transmission of pain signals by flipping to the “off” position.

According to the researchers, the A3 receptor can be activated in either of two ways — with its own onboard chemical stimulator or with a synthetic small molecule.

Once activated, the A3 receptor prevents or reverses pain without causing the kind of analgesic tolerance or addiction typical of opioids.

The researchers observed that adenosine offshoots are currently in clinical trials to see how well they perform as anti-inflammatory and anticancer agents.

The researchers say the safety profiles of the adenosine-based agents going into those trials looked very good, which bodes well for their possible use as A3 receptor-activated painkillers.

“It has long been appreciated that harnessing the potent pain-killing effects of adenosine could provide a breakthrough step towards an effective treatment for chronic pain,” Salvemini said.

“Our findings suggest that this goal may be achieved by focusing future work on the A3 pathway, in particular, as its activation provides robust pain reduction across several types of pain.”

The research was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes for Health.