AstraZeneca is teaming up with one of the world's top cancer treatment centres to develop new breakthroughs against cancer pain. The company said it would work with the University of Texas M D Anderson Cancer Center to advance understanding of neuropathic pain caused by cancer chemotherapy - a side effect that often prevents the use of optimal therapeutic dosing.

The new alliance will focus on why some patients experience little or no discomfort on such treatment while others suffer peripheral nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling, and even severe pain.
By identifying the neurobiological basis for such different responses, scientists at M D Anderson and AstraZeneca hope to develop new interventions.

The research could, says AstraZeneca, also extending the therapeutic value of existing chemotherapies.
"Our collaboration with AstraZeneca addresses a critical need in cancer care, which is improving the quality of life of cancer patients," said Dr Charles Cleeland, head of the M D Anderson Center's Department of Symptom Research.

M D Anderson and AstraZeneca were already collaborating on oncology products and research. However, the new venture means that one of the most prevalent symptoms in cancer patients, will now also be investigated. Earlier studies suggest that pain affects up to 50% of patients undergoing active cancer treatment and up to 90% of those with advanced disease.

Bob Holland, vice president for neuroscience at AstraZeneca. "We are excited to begin this collaboration with M D Anderson, which is at the forefront of discovering new ways of assessing and addressing pain symptoms associated with cancer treatment."

More specifically, Andy Dray, chief scientist in the CNS and Pain Research Area at AstraZeneca, hoped the collaboration would enable the company "to design and validate new pain research models that can then be used to effectively test novel therapies in a preclinical setting".

This is the third of several planned alliances by AstraZeneca with leading academic and research institutions to address unmet medical needs across several disease areas, including Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain and psychiatric illnesses. The company said the new collaborations complement its existing US-based alliances with other institutions in neuroscience and other key therapeutic areas.