Developing a new treatment for chronic pain to fight against one of the major problems in public health care
University of Montpellier, INSERM, CNRS / University of Strasbourg
Montpellier Institute of Neurosciences, CNRS / University of Strasbourg
Pain that lasts continually for more than three months is defined as “chronic”. As such, chronic pain represents one of the most serious public health issues in developed countries today. A European study showed recently that chronic pain affects some 20% of the adult population, occurring several times a week for periods of at least six months, and lasting 7 years on average. The number of patients suffering from chronic pain increases with age. As the overall population ages, the number of cases of chronic pain is expected to increase significantly over the coming decades. This situation is clearly critical for the patients concerned, but it is also extremely costly from an economic and societal perspective. One of the reasons why this is so serious is that analgesics do not offer a fully effective treatment: whereas treatment for sharp pain is relatively efficient, chronic pain is mostly resistant to current therapies (2/3 of all patients suffer from chronic pain that is poorly controlled by today’s drugs, including antidepressants and anti-epileptic medications).
The Biodol project focuses on two main goals: first, to better understand the molecular mechanisms that regulate the onset and persistence of pain; and second, to identify and develop competitive and selective antagonists to create new drugs adapted to handling chronic pain. Among the many signaling paths for sensory stimulation, the Biodol project focuses on the FL cytokine in particular, and its Flt3 tryosine kinase receptor expressed on the surface of mematopoietic cells. At this time, no small molecules have been defined as a ligand for the Flt3 receptor. Only more-or-less selective inhibitors of intracellular tyrosine domain activation (receptor autophosphorylation) have been developed in oncology, to treat myeloid leukemia. Biodol’s deliverable product will be a competitive and selective Flt3 antagonist that is orally reactive, acting on the extracellular part of the receptor. Following the success of this step, Biodol will be able to pursue studies of its inhibitor through clinical research with patients.