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Management of cancer pain: 1. Wider implications of orthodox analgesics

Authors Lee S, Dawson J, Lee J, Osman G, Levitin M, Guzel R, Djamgoz M

Received 30 December 2012

Accepted for publication 21 May 2013

Published 7 January 2014 Volume 2014:7 Pages 49—58


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Susannah K Lee,1 Jill Dawson,2 Jack A Lee,3 Gizem Osman,4 Maria O Levitin,5 Refika Mine Guzel,5 Mustafa BA Djamgoz5,6

1Pomona College, Claremont, CA, USA; 2Healthcare Communications Consultancy, Danville, CA, USA; 3College of Arts and Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA; 4Department of Chemical Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK; 5Division of Cell and Molecular Biology, Neuroscience Solutions to Cancer Research Group, South Kensington Campus, Imperial College London, London, UK; 6Cyprus International University, Biotechnology Research Centre, Haspolat, North Cyprus, Mersin, Turkey

Abstract: In this review, the first of two parts, we first provide an overview of the orthodox analgesics used commonly against cancer pain. Then, we examine in more detail the emerging evidence for the potential impact of analgesic use on cancer risk and disease progression. Increasing findings suggest that long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, particularly aspirin, may reduce cancer occurrence. However, acetaminophen may raise the risk of some hematological malignancies. Drugs acting upon receptors of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and GABA “mimetics” (eg, gabapentin) appear generally safe for cancer patients, but there is some evidence of potential carcinogenicity. Some barbiturates appear to slightly raise cancer risks and can affect cancer cell behavior in vitro. For cannabis, studies suggest an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue, larynx, and possibly lung. Morphine may stimulate human microvascular endothelial cell proliferation and angiogenesis; it is not clear whether this might cause harm or produce benefit. The opioid, fentanyl, may promote growth in some tumor cell lines. Opium itself is an emerging risk factor for gastric adenocarcinoma and possibly cancers of the esophagus, bladder, larynx, and lung. It is concluded that analgesics currently prescribed for cancer pain can significantly affect the cancer process itself. More futuristically, several ion channels are being targeted with novel analgesics, but many of these are also involved in primary and/or secondary tumorigenesis. Further studies are needed to elucidate possible cellular and molecular effects of orthodox analgesics and their possible long-term impact, both positive and negative, and thus enable the best possible clinical gain for cancer patients.

Keywords: NSAIDs, cannabinoids, opioids, GABA-ergic drugs, GABA mimetics, ion channels

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