A drug used to ease the effects of jet lag may also prevent the painful side effects of cancer medications, a study claims.
Researchers from University of Edinburgh and University of Aberdeen in the UK found that a drug - known as melatonin - appeared to prevent pain caused by chemotherapy damage to nerves by blocking the harmful effects on nerve health.
They focused on a common condition known as chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain (CINP), which causes tingling and pain sensation to touch and cold temperatures that can be severe enough to cause patients to limit their chemotherapy treatment.
CINP affects almost 70 per cent of patients undergoing chemotherapy and can have severe impact on quality of life.
Everyday activities, including fastening buttons or walking barefoot, can cause pain that can persist even after the cancer is cured, meaning that some patients are unable to return to work or able to carry out household tasks.
Researchers showed that melatonin given prior to chemotherapy limited the damaging effect on nerve cells and the development of pain symptoms.
Melatonin did not alleviate pain when CINP had already developed, suggesting that its potential benefits could be as prevention rather than cure, researchers said.
They noted that meltdown treatment did not interfere with the beneficial anticancer effects of chemotherapy in human breast and ovarian cancer cells.
"These findings are very exciting and suggest that melatonin could prevent CINP by protecting nerve cell mitochondria," said Carole Torsney, from University of Edinburgh.
The study was published in the Journal of Pineal Research.
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