Common Pain Medication Accelerates Growth of Cancer Tumors

Thursday, January 07, 2010 by: E. Huff, staff writer
Tags: painkillers, cancer tumors, health news

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(NaturalNews) Two recent studies analyzing the side effects of morphine have revealed that the chronic pain drug and other opiate-based pain medications contribute to the growth and spread of cancer cells. Dr. Patrick Singleton, Ph.D., author of the studies and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center, emphasized that the discovery could change the way cancer patients are treated for pain.

Morphine is a highly potent, highly addictive opiate analgesic that works by crossing the protective blood-brain barrier to get to the central nervous system where it alleviates a person's pain symptoms. Laboratory studies have revealed that a side effect to relieving pain is the prompting of cancer cells to replicate and proliferate throughout the body. Morphine also obstructs the body's immune response by decreasing the barrier function that protects the body from foreign invaders.

The late pharmacologist Leon Goldberg of the University of Chicago developed a solution drug called methylnaltrexone (MNTX) in the 1980s that blocks the negative side effects of morphine while preserving its pain relieving capabilities. Current research indicates that MNTX works in some way to preserve the "mu" opiate receptor functionality which blocks tumor growth. Morphine alone disrupts the mu receptor, instigating the spread of cancer.

If confirmed clinically, study authors believe the many findings concerning morphine and opiate-related cancer proliferation will significantly alter how morphine is used in cancer patients.

The inherent dangers of morphine and other opiate drugs was not mentioned in the studies. Even if the mechanism that encourages cancer growth can somehow be disabled, morphine is still an incredibly powerful, addictive drug that if misused even slightly can cause serious injury or death. Withdrawal symptoms from discontinuing its use can be difficult as is the detoxification period following its usage.

During the time when morphine is administered, the patient's brain slows or halts it production of endorphins which are no longer needed to establish well-being and happiness. When the drug ceases to be administered, severe depression can occur as the patient's brain needs time to readjust endorphin levels back to the proper amount.

No mention was made in the studies about any alternative methods of preventing and treating cancer. The use of harsh treatments like chemotherapy and radiation cause severe pain in which a person needs harsh painkillers in order to function somewhat normally. Alternative approaches that avoid harsh procedures and dangerous drugs should be considered as viable options.

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