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Grant supports research into pain-relieving drugs for bowel disease

Three-year research project to determine effectiveness of new opioid drugs in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.

[Dr. Stephen Vanner by Matthew Manor]
Dr. Stephen Vanner has received funding  to lead a three-year research project to determine the effectiveness of new opioid drugs in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (Photo by Matthew Manor)

Stephen Vanner, a clinician-scientist with Queen’s University and the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, has received funding to lead a three-year research project to determine the effectiveness of new opioid drugs in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

One of the greatest unmet needs of patients with IBD is abdominal pain. Current opioid drugs are the most effective treatment, but they have serious side effects. However, new opioid drugs now in development offer longer-lasting pain relief with minimal side effects.

Dr. Vanner, Director of the Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit at Kingston Health Sciences Centre and a professor of the Queen’s School of Medicine, has been awarded $375,000 from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada to support early-stage laboratory research that will look at delivering these opioids to specific targets in pain-sensing nerves to reduce pain while mitigating side effects of opioids.

One of the drugs inhibits these pain-sensing nerves in a unique way that leads to sustained pain relief. Another targets these nerves only in inflamed tissues.

“These particular drugs should have no effect on normal tissues, so they could limit or even prevent side effects,” Dr. Vanner says.

This research builds on a large body of earlier IBD work by Dr. Vanner’s group into pain-signalling pathways that suggest these strategies will be effective.

“If these approaches work, the next step could be clinical trials in patients,” he says.

Approximately 1,100 Kingstonians live with IBD, according to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, and the number of Canadians with this disease is expected to jump from 270,000 to more than 400,000 by 2030. Canada has the highest rate of IBD in the world.

This article was first published on the KGH Research Institute website