Reported February 1, 2002
Managing Bone Pain
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.

People with bone cancer say the pain they feel is worse than any other they have experienced. When these patients simply move a body part, a piercing pain takes place. Now a new drug may mean the difference between spending the rest of their lives on heavy pain medication or spending the time awake and alert with loved ones.

Two doctors with different areas of expertise brought together by a shared passion.

Dr. Denis Clohisy says, "When we met we had a shared interest and that was to try to understand the cause of bone cancer pain."

Pain researcher Patrick Mantyh, Ph.D., and orthopedic surgeon Denis Clohisy, M.D., both of the University of Minnesota, know what pain means to a bone cancer patient.

"When you ask a person with cancer, 'What do you fear most about the disease?' once they now understand they have cancer, I think it's really dying in pain," says Dr. Mantyh.

Dr. Clohisy says, "If you just laid your hand on them in a way that would not typically cause pain, they might sense excruciating pain."

Their goal is to manage this pain, and they are one step closer. Instead of focusing on the pain alone, they're targeting the cause of the pain.

Dr. Mantyh says, "When the tumor comes in, it hijacks the normal cells of the bone and it causes excessive bone destruction."

These doctors found a substance called osteoprotegerin (OPG) stops the overproduction of destructive cells and decreases pain.

"It returns the bone to its more normal state," says Dr. Mantyh.

Even more, OPG works without the fatigue of traditional painkillers. "It would give them the hope of not only being pain-free but being more active," says Dr. Clohisy.

So far, study results are promising. Dr. Mantyh says, "I think that is what's really going to revolutionize medicine."

Both say two heads are better than one and for these two men, the answer will be found side-by-side.

Right now, OPG is still in clinical studies and not yet available to the public. Dr. Mantyh says OPG may one day also manage pain in patients with osteoporosis, bone fractures, sickle-cell anemia, and Paget's disease.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Therese Schachetel
Neurosystems Center
University of Minnesota
18-208 Moos Tower
515 Delaware St SE
Minnesota, MN 55455
(612) 626-2560