Ketamine—an established cancer-pain drug—may do more harm than good

September 25, 2012, Flinders University
Ketamine--an established cancer-pain drug--may do more harm than good

(Medical Xpress)—A drug which for decades has been widely used to treat pain related to cancer has no net clinical benefit, researchers in the Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative (PaCCSC) based at Flinders University have found.

The national study involved 185 patients with advanced cancer, 93 of whom received the drug ketamine while the other 92 received a .

The results, published last week in the prestigious international Journal of Clinical Oncology, not only showed identical benefit between the two groups but revealed significantly higher rates of toxicity and other side-effects for those receiving ketamine.

Chief Investigator and Professor of Palliative and Supportive Services, David Currow said the results of the study have highlighted the potential harm that can be caused by prescribing "off label" – that is, using drugs in ways other than originally intended – without adequate trials.

"The role of ketamine in routine clinical care for chronic, complex cancer pain is not in any way supported by this study. The result is resoundingly negative," Professor Currow said.

"At sub-anaesthetic doses, ketamine has been shown to help in post-operative ; so the trial of it in cancer-related pain, where the nerve itself is damaged, was a very logical step," he said.

"The question is, can you take information from one patient population and just automatically apply it to another population? The short answer is you can't."

Professor Currow said that "robust data" were needed to inform the care of people with advanced life limiting illnesses.

"These people deserve exactly the same quality of care that anyone else gets in the . In fact, they're more at risk than anyone else of adverse outcomes," he said.

"They're frail, they're often on many medications but they're not necessarily old – one in three is under the age of 65 in Australia."

This study is the first to be published by PaCCSC, which is funded under the national Program and supported by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing to test the effectiveness of various medications in order to improve symptom management and quality of care in patients living with a terminal .

Other research currently underway includes the world's largest study on the use of anti-psychotic medications to treat acute confusion, or delirium.

"It's going to inform practice around the world, not just in palliative care but in the frail and elderly, people after operations or major trauma, people with acute infections: all are at very great risk of becoming acutely confused," Professor Currow said.

Explore further: Adding ketamine to opioids doesn't reduce cancer pain

More information: doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.42.1081

Related Stories

Adding ketamine to opioids doesn't reduce cancer pain

September 11, 2012
(HealthDay)—Using subcutaneously administered ketamine in a dose-escalating regimen as an adjunct to opioids and standard co-analgesics does not have any clinical benefit in relieving cancer pain, but it is associated with ...

A third of women with secondary breast cancer are needlessly living in pain, research shows

November 22, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- New research released today by Breast Cancer Care and the University of Southampton reveals that more than a third (34 per cent) of women with secondary breast cancer are unnecessarily living with uncontrolled ...

'Special K' could relieve depression

June 7, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Recreational drug and anaesthetic, ketamine, is being trialled in people with severe depression and is providing almost instant relief from symptoms, offering fresh hope of a quick new way to manage the ...

Patients to benefit from better advice on pain control

May 23, 2012
New UK guidance for doctors and other prescribers on the use of strong painkillers for patients with chronic or incurable disease has been welcomed by researchers at the University of Leeds.

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.