Dr McDermott and Professor David Bennett, Professor of Neurology and Neurobiology at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, have been awarded a £150,000 grant by AstraZeneca to investigate compounds for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.
Chemotherapy induced neuropathy is a disabling, dose limiting side effect of cancer treatment. It causes the degeneration of peripheral sensory nerve fibres leading to the development of neuropathic pain and sensory dysfunction in patients.
This common side effect can affect between twenty and eighty percent of individuals receiving chemotherapy depending on their age, co-morbidities and the class of chemotherapeutic drug used. Those receiving platinum or taxane drugs (e.g. cisplatin and paclitaxel) seem to be particularly affected.
“There are multiple proposed mechanisms for this neurotoxicity, but many seem to converge on the activation of an axonal degeneration pathway known as ‘Wallerian degeneration’ (WD). Inhibitors of this pathway therefore pose a very attractive therapeutic target. We will investigate whether candidate compounds generated to target WD can prevent axonal degeneration in vitro using a human neuronal model,” explains Lucy. The team will also compare their efficacy with genetically engineered neuronal lines in which the Wallerian degeneration genes have been manipulated.
Lucy starts work on this two-year research project next month.