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Novartis MS drug Gilenya could relieve painful side effect of chemo
Drug Discovery, Pharma News

Novartis’ ($NVS) multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya may be able to mitigate a painful side effect of chemotherapy in cancer patients, according to a new preclinical study.

Daniela Salvemini, professor of pharmacological and physiological sciences at Saint Louis University, has discovered the molecular pathway by which this side effect called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, or CIPN, occurs. The findings, which appear in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, also point to a drug used to mitigate symptoms of multiple sclerosis that could prevent CIPN.

In rats, Salvemini and her colleagues studied paclitaxel–sold under the brand name Taxol by Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY)–and found that the activation of sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor subtype 1 (S1PR1) in the central nervous system causes a series of damaging neuro-inflammatory processes leading to pain.

The researchers tested this pain pathway by using Gilenya, which modulates S1PR1, to inhibit this molecule in rats. They found the drug weakened neuroinflammatory processes, which blocked and reversed neuropathic pain without altering the effectiveness of paclitaxel.

Anywhere from 30% to 90% of patients treated with taxanes–the class of drugs that includes paclitaxel–and combination chemotherapies develop CIPN, which can range from a tingling or numbness in the hands and feet to shooting or burning pain in the limbs. Patients can also experience hot or cold temperature extremes.

Symptoms may last weeks, months or years after stopping chemotherapy treatment, and CIPN is often why patients stop chemotherapy early.

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