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Antidepressant helps relieve pain from chemotherapy: study

(Xinhua)

09:43, June 06, 2012

WASHINGTON, June 5 (Xinhua) -- The antidepressant drug duloxetine helped relieve painful tingling feelings caused by chemotherapy in 59 percent of patients, a new study has found.

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy is a common side effect of certain chemotherapy drugs. The tingling feeling -- usually felt in the toes, feet, fingers and hands -- can be uncomfortable for many patients, but for about 30 percent of patients it's a painful sensation. Previous studies have found no reliable way to treat this type of pain.

In the current study, which will be presented on Tuesday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, researchers looked at 231 patients who reported painful neuropathy after receiving the chemotherapy drugs oxaliplatin or paclitaxel. Patients were randomly assigned to receive duloxetine or a placebo for five weeks. They were asked to report on their pain levels weekly throughout the study.

The researchers found that 59 percent of patients who received duloxetine reported reduced pain, while only 39 percent of those taking placebo did.

"These drugs don't work in everyone. The good news is it worked in the majority of patients. We need to figure out who are the responders. If we can predict who they are, we can target the treatment to the people it's going to work for," said lead study author Ellen Smith, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Duloxetine has previously been found effective to help relieve painful diabetic neuropathy. This type of antidepressant is believed to work on pain by increasing neurotransmitters that interrupt pain signals to the brain.

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