Two IU researchers win $2.3M grant to study neuropathy in cancer patients

Two cancer researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine who have been trying to unlock the mystery of debilitating side effects of chemotherapy have won a $2.3 million grant to continue their research.

Jill Fehrenbacher and Mark Kelley were awarded a five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute, the medical school said this week.

The two researchers are studying causes and possible treatments for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, a nerve problem that causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, along with muscle pain and weakness. Up to 60 percent of cancer patients say they experience neuropathy to varying degrees.

Fehrenbacher and Kelley plan to test the effectiveness of a small, targeted molecule called APX3330 to prevent or reverse neuropathy in tumor-bearing mice.

APX3330 is in clinical trials for anti-tumor and anti-neuropathy studies by Apexian Pharmaceuticals, an Indianapolis biotech startup. Kelley is co-founder and chief scientific officer of Apexian, and is also associate director of basic science research at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

“This might be an option for pain relief or neuropathic symptom relief in the future,” said Fehrenbacher, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the medical school, and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

There are currently no effective treatments or preventative treatments against neuropathy, the medical school said. It is believed that neuropathy develops over time as a cumulative effect of chemotherapy that alters the function of sensory neurons.

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