People who suffer from chronic numbness or pain and tingling in their extremities, caused by diabetes or other conditions, might soon get relief. A study by an international team of researchers has found that a class of drugs prescribed for other medical issues such as nearsightedness, incontinence or peptic ulcers may also prevent numbness and pain in fingers, arms and legs.
Led by Dr. Paul Fernyhough of the University of Manitoba and St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, and Dr. Nigel Calcutt of the University of California at San Diego, the researchers found that antimuscarinic drugs such as atropine or pirenzepine can reverse the numbness and pain, called neuropathy, often experienced by people with diabetes, HIV, or as a side effect of cancer chemotherapy.
Fernyhough notes: “The costs of treating these diseases and associated morbidities exceed the costs for treating breast cancer. For the first time we have identified a new class of drugs that can reverse nerve damage in animal models of these diseases.”
In peripheral neuropathy the nerve endings of the peripheral nerves die leading to severe impacts on quality of life. For example, patients suffer from intractable pain, foot ulcers, infections and ultimately amputations. There are presently no treatments other than palliative care. The study found that widely-used drugs targeted a key receptor in the neural pathway regulating the growth of nerve fibres and stimulated their regeneration. The drugs drive nerve fibre regeneration and repair in disease states such as diabetes and chemotherapy where there is otherwise irreversible nerve damage.
Calcutt, Fernyhough and Lakshmi Kotra of the University of Toronto together have founded the biotech company WinSanTor to specifically develop the therapeutic potential of this novel approach to treating neuropathy.
“This data opens the possibility that the process of peripheral nerve degeneration may be therapeutically reversible, and now with the potential to use existing drugs, we can rapidly translate these findings to clinical trials,” says Stanley Kim, co-founder and CEO of WinSanTor. “Peripheral neuropathy is a major and often neglected health problem affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world, including a majority of diabetes patients, and we can’t afford to wait any longer in advancing treatments for this disease.”
Fernyhough adds: “An exciting aspect of the work is that these are new uses for old drugs. They have been used in humans for over 20 years with no serious side effects and have an excellent safety profile. We expect Phase 1 trials to progress smoothly with Phase 2 trials arranged and already funded for 2017.”
“We are proud of Dr Fernyhough’s exciting finding and the clinical implications of this discovery,” says Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research at St Boniface Hospital. “It is another example of the successful history at St Boniface Hospital of translating our lab bench findings into valuable medical applications to benefit the health of Canadians.”
“I congratulate Drs. Fernyhough and Calcutt on their findings,” says Dr. Digvir Jayas, Vice-President (Research and International) and Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba. “This research will benefit millions of people who are affected by chronic diseases.”
The results of the study will be published this month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The research was funded by grants from the JDRF, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the National Institutes of Health, with support from St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.
St. Boniface Hospital Foundation was founded in 1971 and is the primary fundraising organization for St. Boniface Hospital. The Foundation is dedicated to making possible the many innovations in health research and patient care taking place at the Hospital. Research at St. Boniface Hospital is where medical discoveries are made; science is translated into practices that improve human health; and today’s best minds are shaping tomorrow’s advances in health care.
The University of Manitoba – Manitoba’s research university – has a tradition of excellence in research, scholarly work and other creative activities spanning over 140 years, having made seminal contributions in many fields and finding life-changing solutions to problems being faced by peoples of Manitoba, Canada, and the world through fundamental and applied research.
WinSanTor Inc. is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for peripheral neuropathies, including diabetic peripheral neuropathy, chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy, HIV-induced and others. WinSanTor was founded by scientists and industry experts who share the vision that recent scientific insights into the biological processes underlying degenerative diseases offer an unprecedented opportunity to discover and develop effective medicines. WinSanTor is rigorously pursuing a science-driven approach to translational medicine and clinical development.
Download press release PDF here
Sandiego Union Tribune
The San Diego Union-Tribune (Scanned, PDF)
Please consider me for a clinical trial.
It’s been two years since this this discovery, what has happened since?
Have you heard anymore about the results of the study. I too am interested.
How interesting!!. I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy in 2010 – NO pAIN – No illness -no meds Have taken dance classes for 70 years non stop & -still three a week.One Dr. told me it was tarsal tunnel which makes me curious as no pain in feet. Dr Vera Bril of Toronto General and Dr Rousseau of Toronto were my specialists. I may add I am 93 yrs of age – healthy – 3 dance classes a week- my splits are still good and my “dead” feet hold me back. Wanting to try something for nerve re generation – and is it possible for a wrong diagnoses and could be tarsal tunnel. thank you Dorothy Gordon Toronto Ont. Also wonder if Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic have something we don’t??
Always interested in nerve re-generation as I stated in my message to you in my message above. Did go to Mayo Clinic -Neurology in Minnesota – amazing place – but nothing accomplished except for a complete medical exam. Now am 95 yrs and in excellent health except for my – dead feet – Still doing 3 or 4 dance classes a week – till Virus in March and anxious to get back. No pain my feet – just numbness with heavy feeling. Would love to be notified of any news, as I likely have many years ahead of me. Dorothy Gordon Toronto Ontario. Fingers crossed
On my own nerve health journey and came here. I just wanted to say Dorothy, I hope you are still dancing 3 and 4 times a week! You are awesome!
I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 45 years and am just now beginning to experience peripheral neuropathy. Please, I beg of you, consider me for a clinical trial. Thanks for everything you are doing!
Can it help nerve damaged from a fracture in the back
May God bless each and every hand involved in the study of this medication ! Now, where may I find treatment with this medication?
I have pain in the tips of two fingers. , I have arthritis , but 4 month ago I got a herpetic whitlow
In one of those fingers and my fingers is still red , very painful to touch , I exprerience pins and needles in my Hands often ,,,do you think this will ever go away ! I would certainly go for a trial , I am quite discourage ,
Any help available in Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley?
Are you seeking people with peripheral neuropathy to participate in clinical trials? I am interested.
Anyone seeking to join a clinical trial can find contact information through the Winsantor company website, winsantor.com which presently mentions availability of phase 2 clinical trials. You might also be able to find a local doctor willing to prescribe these existing medications on an off-label basis.
I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy about one year and a half ago. I have numbness and tingling in my feet. This health problem has limited my ability to do many tasks. I have to be extra careful around rugs and other flooring objects around our house. Over period of problem, I have experience six/seven serious falls, injuring my arms and legs. I have over this period of time, taken extra effort to manage my movements and I use a cane and stair lift to assist my mobility and limit falls. I am 76 years old and was always very active in swimming and other exercises, however this condition has certainly limited my overall mobility. I would certainly welcome to be a clinical trial candidate.