Powerful opium-based morphine painkillers may actually make cancers worse for thousands of patients who routinely receive them, according to US research.
But scientists have also found that methylnaltrexone (MNTX), which was developed in the 1980s and approved for use in the US last year, can block this unwelcome side-effect without affecting morphine’s pain-killing properties.
The researchers, at the University of Chicago, found that morphine may fuel the growth and spread of cancer tumours.
Says the university’s Dr Patrick Singleton: “If confirmed clinically, MNTX could change how we do surgical anaesthesia for our cancer patients.
“It also suggests potential new applications for this novel class of drugs, which should be explored.”
Copyright Press Association 2009