M. D. Anderson, AstraZeneca form alliance to advance understanding of cancer-related pain

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The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) today announced that they will collaborate to help advance understanding of neuropathic pain caused by cancer chemotherapy, a side effect that often limits optimal therapeutic dosing in cancer treatments.

The new alliance will focus on identifying neurobiological differences between cancer patients who develop chemotherapy-induced pain and patients who experience little or no pain. Scientists at M. D. Anderson and AstraZeneca hope to better understand the mechanisms through which chemotherapies cause peripheral nerve dysfunctions, such as numbness and tingling, and severe pain. Research could lead to new treatments to prevent pain - extending the therapeutic value of current chemotherapies - as well as help in the development of new chemotherapies with less severe pain-related side effects.

"Our collaboration with AstraZeneca addresses a critical need in cancer care, which is improving the quality of life of cancer patients," said Charles Cleeland, Ph.D., chair of M. D. Anderson's Department of Symptom Research.

M. D. Anderson and AstraZeneca have ongoing collaborations focused on a variety of initiatives across a range of AstraZeneca oncology products and research projects. This new agreement will extend that relationship to examine one of the most prevalent symptoms in cancer patients. One study found that pain affects up to 50 percent of patients undergoing active cancer treatment and up to 90 percent of those with advanced disease. (1, 2)

"Our experience in establishing a strategic alliance in 2006 to accelerate the evaluation and approval of anti-cancer drugs can now be extended to more effective supportive care for cancer patients and individuals with other diseases," said Robert Bast, M. D., vice president of translational research at M. D. Anderson.

"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. We hope the insights we gain from this alliance will ultimately lead to new treatment options that will improve the quality of life for cancer patients," said Bob Holland, vice president for neuroscience at AstraZeneca.

"We are hopeful that the knowledge gained from this collaboration will enable us to design and validate new pain research models that can then be used to effectively test novel therapies in a preclinical setting," said Andy Dray, chief scientist in the CNS and Pain Research Area at AstraZeneca.

This is the third of several planned new alliances by AstraZeneca with leading academic and research institutions to address unmet medical needs through cutting-edge research across several disease areas, including Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain and psychiatric illnesses. These proposed new agreements complement existing AstraZeneca US-based alliances in neuroscience and other key therapeutic areas with world-class institutions.

Cancer-related pain symptoms will be a key area of focus at an upcoming conference sponsored by M. D. Anderson titled "Mechanisms and Treatment of Cancer-Related Symptoms." The conference, scheduled for January 24-26, will examine the relationships among pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, cognitive dysfunction, and nausea/vomiting, and will explore the potential common mechanisms of these symptoms.

About the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. M. D. Anderson is one of only 39 Comprehensive Cancer Centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. For five of the past eight years, M. D. Anderson has ranked No. 1 in cancer care in "America's Best Hospitals," a survey published annually in U.S. News and World Report.

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a major international healthcare business engaged in the research, development, manufacture and marketing of prescription pharmaceuticals and the supply of healthcare services. It is one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies with healthcare sales of $26.47 billion and leading positions in sales of gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory, oncology and infection products. AstraZeneca is listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (Global) as well as the FTSE4Good Index.

In the United States, AstraZeneca is a $12.44 billion healthcare business with more than 12,000 employees. For nearly three decades, AstraZeneca has offered drug assistance programs side by side with its medicines, and over the past five years, has provided over $3 billion in savings to more than 1 million patients throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. AstraZeneca has been named one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" by Working Mother magazine and is the only large pharmaceutical company named to FORTUNE magazine's 2007 list of "100 Best Companies to Work For." In 2006, for the fifth consecutive year, Science magazine named AstraZeneca a "Top Employer" on its ranking of the world's most respected biopharmaceutical employers.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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