Cancer Complication: Researchers Discover the First Ever Drug to Combat Lymphedema

By KM Diaz, | May 11, 2017

People with lymphedema have too much fluid build-up in parts of the body, especially in legs and arms. (YouTube)

People with lymphedema have too much fluid build-up in parts of the body, especially in legs and arms. (YouTube)

Most of the cancer patients, particularly those who went from breast cancer treatment, experience painful and swollen limbs, a condition and cancer complication known as lymphedema. Currently, there is no available drug for the condition, though it can be managed through massage. However, researchers have now found a potential drug therapy for the debilitating condition.

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According to Dr. Stanley Rockson, one of the senior authors of the study and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, approximately 10 million Americans are suffering from lymphedema. The condition is very common, but many people might not recognize it at first.

People with lymphedema have too much fluid build-up in parts of the body, especially in legs and arms. Often, the condition occurs after several cancer treatments. It destroys the lymphatic system to prevent lymph fluids from draining properly.

American Cancer Society has stated that lymphedema can be a very uncomfortable condition and makes people prone to infections. The illness also limits social and physical functioning.

In a new study, Rockson and his colleagues want to have a better understanding regarding the molecular mechanisms that prompt lymphedema. The drug called ketoprofen, a painkiller, could be a potential treatment. However, it has several side effects on the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and heart.

To zero in on the good side of ketoprofen, researchers used lab mice induced. They were able to have a lymphedema-like condition, in which they found that the drug could actually prevent fluid build-up and tissue injury by stopping the so-called protein leukotriene B4 (LTB4). The same protein is also elevated in the cell sample of patients with lymphedema.

Bestatin is another potential treatment which effectively works in mice with lymphedema. However, it is not yet approved in the United States, but it has been used as a cancer treatment in Japan for several years.

According to Rockson, the drug has a further selective action against LTB4 with minor side effects compared to ketoprofen. A clinical trial using bestatin to combat lymphedema is already underway. Eiger BioPharmaceuticals in Palo Alto, California will be funding the trial and will acquire the drug from the Japanese manufacturer. Rockson and his colleague will be the consultants of the company.

These findings could extend a clearer understanding of the underlying process in lymphedema. The clinical trial result on bestatin is still a few years away, but Rockson said that patients should believe on the positive outcome of the trials.

The study was published in Science Translational Medicine.

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