Dr Seiichi Yamano and Dr Brian Schmidt, researchers from New York University’s Bluestone Centre for Clinical Research, have received almost $370k in funding to test a new method they have developed to treat oral cancer pain effectively and safely.
Oral cancer consistently ranks as one of the most painful cancers, vastly reducing quality of life due the intense pain interfering with necessary oral functions, such as eating, talking and swallowing.
The researchers are being funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NICDR) to test whether their nonviral delivery method could be rolled out for all oral cancer sufferers.
Dr Schmidt said: “Oral cancer pain is more severe, and the opioid requirement is higher, than pain from any other cancer. And in the end, pharmacological agents used to treat cancer pain often lack anatomical specificity and produce off target effects that create additional suffering.”
Dr Yamano added: “Gene therapy is emerging as an exciting prospect and alternative to opioids for the treatment of cancer pain. We seek to eliminate oral cancer pain by reversing epigenetic changes using gene therapy and set the stage for a new class of medicines that selectively disrupt nociceptive signalling with limited off-target effects.”
The research has three specific aims: to determine the efficacy of ex-vivo gene transfer with nonviral vectors to relieve cancer-induced pain – with the long term goal of offering this as a service clinicians can provide in practice; to determine the efficacy of in-vivo gene transfer directly into the tongue cancer; and to analyse toxicity and immune response in the cancer mice treated with non-viral gene delivery.
Dr Yamano concluded: “The proposed research is significant because we will use a local delivery technique directly into the cancer to reduce the potential side effects of systemic drugs. Our approach is innovative because we will transduce the cancer cells for the treatment of cancer pain and our nonviral vector more efficiently targets oral cancer cells relative to normal cells. Ultimately, these studies might facilitate the development of an effective therapy to treat cancer pain.”