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Results On Snail Venom For Chronic Pain



Author: Cindy Huffman
Published on: August 25, 2000
Meridia Center for Rehabilitation and Pain Management at Meridia South Pointe Hospital is pleased to announce its participation in a new clinical study to treat terminally ill cancer and AIDS patients with chronic pain. These are patients who have demonstrated a non-response or intolerance to opiate therapy.

Meridia South Pointe Hospital is one of 30 sites in the United States who are participating in the study sponsored by Neurex Corporation in Menlo Park, California, and Medtronic, Inc., in Minneapolis, MN. Medicine often fails to offer relief to patients with chronic pain. Medicines such as aspirin are far too weak and narcotics such as morphine often work for a while, but patients quickly become physically dependent and require ever stronger doses.

More than a decade ago Baldomero Olivera and his colleagues at the University of Philippines in Manila observed that several varieties of the cone snail had evolved a sting potent enough to completely paralyze a fish within seconds. Cone snails, which live in the oceans, all use chemical weapons -- a mixture of neurotoxins injected through a harpoonlike tube tipped with a barbed tooth -- to catch their prey.

Since then researchers have isolated one class of peptides from the cone snail venom that may ease human suffering by interrupting pain signals as they travel through the spinal cord to the brain. As a consequence, pain is blocked without numbness. This potential analgesic is called SNX-111. It is chemically synthesized based on the composition of the venom from cone snails.

In this large-scale controlled trial of SNX-111, the drug is delivered through an implantable pump. The refillable pumps, which are made by Medtronic and are regularly used to deliver narcotics, can administer small quantities of the drug directly to the spinal cord in a chronic manner.