“The potential for such drugs is enormous – the reduction or elimination of pain for patients with cancer, arthritis, migraine headaches, muscle pain, pain from burns, and pain from other debilitating diseases.”
A powerful new painkiller, which in effect keeps pain signals from being transmitted rather than dulling their perception, may now reach market in as little as a year, after decades of work.
Developed on the basis of research conducted at New York’s Stony Brook University,(1) the drug has no apparent side effects or addictive qualities, according to Dr. Simon Halegoua, PhD, Professor of Neurobiology & Behavior at Stony Brook.
"This offers a major paradigm shift in the control of pain," declares Dr. Halegoua, who in the 1990s teamed up with fellow Stony Brook professors Dr. Gail Mandel and Dr. Paul Brehm to identify a novel sodium ion channel involved in the transmission of pain.
They predicted that a drug aimed at blocking this channel, PN1/Nav 1.7, would control pain.
PN1 (Peripheral Neuron 1), is uniquely expressed in peripheral nerves such as those involved in pain transduction.
"When a patient is given an opiate like morphine, pain signals are still transmitted from sensory nerves to the central nervous system,” Dr. Halegoua explains. “Morphine action throughout the brain reduces and alters pain perception, but it also impairs judgment and results in drug dependence."
But "With drugs targeting the PN1/Nav1.7 sodium ion channel, the pain signals would not be transmitted, even by the sensory nerves. And since the central nervous system is taken out of the equation, there would be no side effects and no addictive qualities."
The potential for such drugs is enormous – the reduction or elimination of pain for patients with cancer, arthritis, migraine headaches, muscle pain, pain from burns, and pain from other debilitating diseases.
Dr. Halegoua notes that:
• Drugs in both oral and topical ointment forms, based on the research he conducted in a basement laboratory at Stony Brook with Dr. Mandel, a molecular biologist, and Dr. Brehm, an electrophysiologist, are currently in Phase II clinical trials in England and Canada.
• The Research Foundation of the State University of New York is the holder of the various patents originating from the work of the Stony Brook researchers.
• Icagen Inc., now in partnership with Pfizer, holds the exclusive license to these patents and has announced their own drug has now entered Phase I clinical trials in the U.S. [See the news release dated Dec 20, 2010 – “Icagen and Pfizer Initiate Phase 1 Trial in Nav1.7 Program”. Icagen is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.]
1. “The Search to End Pain Takes a New Direction as Stony Brook Research Prompts New Interest.” (“Recent Discovery of Pain Free Children Harkens Back to 90’s Study.")
Source: Stony Brook University news release, Jan 25, 2011