Assistant Professor Sandra Rieger, Ph.D., has identified two drugs that could potentially be used to reverse peripheral nerve damage, or peripheral neuropathy, resulting from cancer chemotherapy treatment. The drugs also have potential applications for the treatment of peripheral neuropathies caused by other conditions.
The drugs are the subject of a provisional patent filed by the MDI Biological Laboratory earlier this year. The institution will be seeking to move the drugs into patient trials. If the drugs prove to be effective for peripheral neuropathy, they will be licensed to a pharmaceutical company for additional studies, with the aim of achieving FDA approval.
Currently, there is no effective treatment for this condition — only symptomatic relief. Damage to the peripheral nervous system can cause pain, numbing, tingling, temperature sensitivity and muscle weakness. If severe, it can lead to falls, changes in heart rate, changes in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, paralysis and even organ failure.
Peripheral neuropathy affects nearly 8 million victims in the United States alone, with the incidence increasing after age 55. Up to 40 percent of cancer chemotherapy patients are affected. In addition, neuropathies can be caused by diabetes, traumatic injury, multiple sclerosis, obesity, chronic kidney disease, aging and other conditions.