Antidepressant Helps Relieve Pain from Chemotherapy, Researchers Find

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The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows duloxetine reduced painful neuropathy in majority of patients.

Many chemotherapy patients experience an uncomfortable numbness or tingling sensation, most commonly in their hands and feet. It’s known as neuropathy, and for about 40% of patients it produces pain that can last for years after finishing treatment.

A recent clinical trial has identified an effective treatment for this pain. UMSN Assistant Professor Ellen M. Lavoie Smith, Ph.D., APRN, AOCN, and colleagues found that the antidepressant drug duloxetine, known commercially as Cymbalta, helped relieve chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in 59% of patients. Their findings are published in the April 3, 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“Duloxetine treatment was associated with a statisti­cally and clinically significant improve­ment in pain compared with patients who were given the placebo,” says Dr.  Smith, who is the lead author of the study and also a researcher at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.
In addition to the decreased pain experienced by patients treated with duloxetine, they reported greater improvements in quality of life and less impact on daily functioning than the placebo group.
Read a full press release and the article "Effect of Duloxetine on Pain, Function, and Quality of Life Among Patients With Chemotherapy-Induced Painful Peripheral Neuropathy: A Randomized Clinical Trial" in JAMA. Watch a short video on the discovery below.
The study has been covered extensively in the media. Click on the links below to read the stories:
Additional authors: Herbert Pang, Ph.D., and Constance Cirrincione, M.S., Duke University; Stewart Fleishman, M.D., Continuum Cancer Centers of New York; Tim Ahles, Ph.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Linda R. Bressler, Pharm.D., Cancer and Leukemia Group B/Alliance Central Office; Camilo Fadul, M.D., Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; Chetaye Knox and Nguyet Le-Lindqwister, M.D., Illinois Oncology Research Association; Paul B. Gilman, M.D., Main Line Hematology and Oncology Associates; Electra D. Paskett, Ph.D., and Charles L. Shapiro, M.D., Ohio State University
Funding: National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Prevention, the Alliance Statistics and Data Center grant and the Alliance’s Chairman’s grant (Alliance/CALGB CA31946); drug and placebo were supplied by Eli Lilly and Company