Recent advances in the use of opioids for cancer pain
Joanne Droney, Julia Riley
Palliative Medicine Department, Royal Marsden Hospital, London, UK
Abstract: Opioids are the mainstay of treatment for moderate to severe cancer pain. In recent years there have been many advances in the use of opioids for cancer pain. Availability and consumption of opioids have increased and opioids other than morphine (including methadone, fentanyl, oxycodone) have become more widely used. Inter-individual variation in response to opioids has been identified as a significant challenge in the management of cancer pain. Many studies have been published demonstrating the benefits of opioid switching as a clinical maneuver to improve tolerability. Constipation has been recognized as a significant burden in cancer patients on opioids. Peripherally restricted opioid antagonists have been developed for the prevention and management of opioid induced constipation. The phenomenon of breakthrough pain has been characterized and novel modes of opioid administration (transmucosal, intranasal, sublingual) have been explored to facilitate improved management of breakthrough cancer pain. Advances have also been made in the realm of molecular biology. Pharmacogenetic studies have explored associations between clinical response to opioids and genetic variation at a DNA level. To date these studies have been small but future research may facilitate prospective prediction of response to individual drugs.
Keywords: opioids, cancer, pain, pharmacogenetics, constipation, breakthrough pain
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