The University of the Pacific pharmacy school in Stockton has discovered a breakthrough to benefit cancer patients dealing with the side effects of opioid medication — including constipation.
Cancer patients sometimes have no alternative but to take opioids for severe pain, and approximately 80 percent of patients have to deal with chronic constipation.
But the opioids can also induce constipation that can last for weeks and also be life-threatening. It’s not something that can be solved by laxatives.
A team of a half dozen students and their professors at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy have worked four years to come up with a new approach for treatment.
Professor Mamoun Alhamadsheh and his team discovered that constipation from opioids is mainly driven by receptors in the brain, not the gastrointestinal tract. He says by blocking those receptors the pain-relieving effects remain but without constipation.
“Helping those patients that they go through this pain is something that is very kind of rewarding and that’s what makes us wake up in the morning excited and just to come and do our work,” he said.
Alhamadsheh says it could take a couple of years with clinical trials and governmental approval still to come.
“Our study actually found something unique,” he said, adding that because constipation is mainly driven by the brain, his team is “trying to develop something that doesn’t go to the brain, so the patient is will be pain-free but will get some relief.”
A student researcher, Hala Aldawod, suggested impacts of the research could extend to other projects.
“This research could also be applicable for other drugs to limit the brain toxicity,” Aldawod told the University of Pacific’s media team. “That is the beautiful thing about it.”
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