The MDI Biological Laboratory (MA, USA) has announced that Sandra Rieger has been awarded a highly competitive grant from the National Cancer Institute, an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study the molecular mechanisms underlying chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, a side effect of cancer chemotherapy causing symptoms such as pain, tingling, temperature sensitivity and numbness in the extremities.
The grant will allow Rieger to continue her research on peripheral neuropathy caused by Taxol (paclitaxel), a chemotherapy agent used in the treatment of ovarian, breast, lung, pancreatic and other cancers. About 60–70% of patients receiving Taxol experience peripheral neuropathy. In severe cases, patients may be forced to reduce or curtail treatment, which deprives them of cancer treatment and may decrease chances of survival.
Rieger’s research also has potential applications in the treatment of peripheral neuropathies caused by other conditions, including diabetes, aging and antibiotic treatment. Neuropathy is a general term for peripheral nerve degeneration, which is believed to affect at least 20 million Americans, with some estimates as high as 40 million. No treatments are currently available, other than for symptoms such as pain.
“This grant is an acknowledgement of the importance of Dr Rieger’s research,” commented Kevin Strange, president of the MDI Biological Laboratory. “Peripheral neuropathy is much more common than generally believed. Her research on the underlying molecular mechanisms of nerve regeneration opens the door to the development of new drug therapies to help the millions who suffer from this potentially debilitating condition.”
The five-year grant, which takes effect July 1, totals approximately US$1.8 million over five years, with additional funding for facilities and administrative costs. The grant will fund Rieger’s continuing research in the zebrafish and research with neurologist Nathan P. Staff on skin samples from breast cancer patients undergoing Taxol treatment at the Mayo Clinic (MN, USA).