Researchers at the University of Dundee seek to understand the mechanisms driving neuropathic pain and its intensity in patients, which affects approximately 7-10% of the general population. The University of Dundee is a key partner in this £4 Million Partnership for Assessment and Investigation of Neuropathic Pain: Studies Tracking Outcomes, Risks and Mechanisms (PAINSTORM) project, which aims to identify the personal characteristics (such as age, gender, and ethnicity), environmental/social features and clinical factors which determine neuropathic pain risk.
Neuropathic pain arises because of a lesion or disease affecting the nervous system. The condition can lead to considerable impairment of physical and mental health and many patients do not receive satisfactory pain relief with current drug treatments. The common causes of neuropathic pain include conditions like diabetes, HIV, trauma, shingles, nerve compression or medical procedures such as chemotherapy and surgery. However, not everyone with these underlying causes develops nerve damage and those that do may or may not develop corresponding pain. The researchers at Dundee will undertake two major studies in order to explain why some people are severely impacted by neuropathic pain whilst others with a similar pattern of nerve damage are not.
Professor Blair Smith, of the University’s Chronic Pain Research Group, said, “Neuropathic pain is more common than many people think. At its worst, it can have a devastating impact on life. For example, for many people it is the worst aspect of having diabetes. For some people receiving chemotherapy, it can be severe enough to stop treatment before it has worked. It can be difficult or impossible, at present, to find effective treatment. We are keen to find out how exactly it develops, so that we can prevent it, or treat it. These PAINSTORM studies will use the latest techniques in biostatistics, genetics, MRI imaging and physiological measurement to do this. We are working in close partnership with people living with neuropathic pain, to make sure that we are asking the right questions and can then apply the answers in the most valuable ways. The findings will, therefore, lead to prevention and reduction of a lot of suffering, improvements in outcomes of diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and consequent savings for the NHS and society.
One of the studies, PAINSTORM Dundee Epidemiology, will use questionnaire surveys to gather data on neuropathic pain recorded in three major public health repositories over a follow-up period of up to five years. The other study, PAINSTORM Dundee Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN), will recruit people scheduled to receive chemotherapy, a treatment which places them at risk of neuropathic pain. This study will examine risk factors using surveys, pain testing, blood analysis and MRI scanning, with assessments from pre-chemotherapy, during and after completion of chemotherapy. The findings from both studies will help researchers to understand the risk factors for neuropathic pain to optimise the use of existing treatments, as well as identifying and prioritising new approaches.
PAINSTORM is a consortium of academia, industry and patient partners from across the UK and Belgium. The projects are funded by the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP), a funding mechanism created by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Versus Arthritis and Eli Lily.
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