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NYU gets NIH grant to study oral cancer pain

January 25, 2018 New York University researchers will use a $3.7 million, five-year grant to study proteases and neuronal signaling responsible for oral cancer pain, the university said in a Jan. 23 news release.

Dr. Brian Schmidt, a dentist and physician who has a Ph.D., and Nigel Bunnett, Ph.D., who worked together in a previous investigation of the role of proteases in oral cancer pain, will collaborate on this project, which Dr. Schmidt describes as "the culmination of many years of work related to proteases, PAR2 (protease-activated receptor 2) and pain."

The pair seek to "unequivocally identify tumor-generated proteases and define the signaling pathway from proteases to receptors on the surface of a nerve to the endosomes within the nerve," according to the news release.

Dr. Schmidt will utilize pain severity data gathered from his patients along with oral cancer tissue obtained during surgical resection, while Dr. Bunnett will use high-resolution imaging and molecular probes on patient tumors to track the G protein-coupled receptors intracellularly after cell surface activation.

"This work has obvious implications for treating patients," said Dr. Schmidt in a news release, "and may lay the foundation for development of a new class of drugs to treat cancer pain and chronic pain without opioids."

The grant comes from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health.