UQ research studies how to stop pain


Preventing children undergoing chemotherapy from experiencing pain and other debilitating side effects is the focus of ongoing research at the University of Queensland.

Dr. Hana Starobova from UQ Molecular Bioscience Institute received a research grant from the Children’s Hospital Foundation to continue his research to relieve children of the side effects of cancer treatments.

“Although children have a higher survival rate than adults after cancer treatments, they can still suffer from side effects well into adulthood,” Dr Starobova said.

“A five-year-old cancer patient could suffer from severe pain, gastrointestinal problems or difficulty walking 20 years after treatment.

“There has been a lack of studies on children, which is a problem because they are not just little adults – they have different cancers, their immune systems work differently and they have a faster metabolism, which affects the functioning of the treatments.

“Our goal is to treat children before the damage occurs, so that side effects are greatly reduced or do not occur in the first place.”

In her Previous search Dr. Starobova found that an anti-inflammatory drug significantly reduced nerve pain associated with a chemotherapy drug and did not reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

Dr. Starobova is currently analyzing how specific drugs could prevent a cascade of inflammation caused by chemotherapy drugs, which leads to tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, and muscle pain and weakness that makes daily tasks , like walking and buttoning, a challenge.

She focuses on acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in children, with over 700 children diagnosed in Australia each year.

Working with Queensland Children’s Hospital Brisbane and Mater Children’s Private Brisbane, and Telethon Kids Institute Perth, Dr Starobova and her team share a strong drive to improve the quality of life of children.

“We are studying the most commonly used chemotherapy treatment for children, which is a mixture of drugs that are very toxic, but should be used to quickly treat the cancer and prevent it from becoming drug resistant,” said Dr Starobova .

“It’s a fine balance — too little chemotherapy and the cancer won’t be killed, but sometimes the side effects are so bad that patients have to stop therapy.

“I hope that by having treatment to reduce side effects, it will be one less thing to worry about for these children and their families.”

Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO Lyndsey Rice said she was proud the Foundation was able to fund such vital research.

“No child should suffer from the treatment that attempts to help them. Dr. Starobova’s research will make a tangible difference for sick children,” said Ms. Rice.

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