By reformulating the common cancer drug, imatinib, researchers find that the new compound works to lower morphine tolerance in lab rats. According to Newswise.com, this new discovery could be an important step in treating chronic pain patients.
With chronic pain patients, they build up a tolerance to their opiate medication, thus creating dependence as well as requiring higher dosages. Although the results of this new study will not change the fact that these patients will be dependent on painkillers, it will affect the amount of painkillers they will need to take to manage their pain. Reducing morphine tolerance could allow for less pain medication, and less side effects.
In this particular study, which was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this reformulated imatinib kept some rats from developing a tolerance to morphine, while it actually reversed the tolerance for some rats that had already been exposed to morphine long term.
Imatinib’s ability to decrease morphine tolerance has not been previously observed in cancer patients taking the drug because its current form does not penetrate the nervous system. The research group reformulated imatinib using a simple, clinically approved carrier molecule that markedly increased drug delivery to the brain. Because both imatinib and this added carrier molecule are already approved for human use, this new drug may be able to treat patients fairly soon.