Morphine is a common pain reliever that has been prescribed along with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments for decades. Now, new lab tests suggest that morphine, along with other opiate-based painkillers, may actually encourage the spread of cancer.
A team of researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center recently reported the findings of two studies related to the cancer drug. Based on these studies, the team believes that opiates enhance the growth of new blood vessels in the body. Angiogenesis is a key element in the spread of cancer, as tumors require increased oxygen flow to grow.
Lead author of the studies, Dr. Patrick Singleton, also relays evidence that shows morphine also made it easier for cancer cells to spread to other areas of the body.
These latest studies are just the newest in the growing belief that opiates may be counterproductive in cancer treatment. The idea was first expressed in 2002, and retrospective studies of cancer survival rates comparing the administration of general vs. regional anesthesia have previously suggested morphine’s connection to tumor growth.