INDIANAPOLIS - The work to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy by some Indiana University cancer researchers has received a big boost. Jill Fehrenbacher and Mark Kelley are the recipients of a five-year $2.3 million National Cancer Institute grant.

They will test the effectiveness of a targeted molecule to prevent or reverse chemotheraphy-induced peripheral neuropathy, or CIPN, caused by various cancer drugs in mice with tumors. 

“For patients with CIPN, this might be an option for pain relief or neuropathic symptom relief in the future,” said Fehrenbacher, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at IU School of Medicine. “Alternatively, for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments, it might be something we can administer alongside the chemotherapy drugs so they never develop CIPN.”

Neuropathy is severe enough for some patients to stop chemotherapy treatments, with the effects lingering beyond the treatment course. No effective treatments are currently available because researchers don't exactly know the cause. Researchers do believe neuropathy develops over time and alters the function of neurons that detect pain and touch. 

Kelley is associate director of basic science research at the IU Simon Cancer Center and was awarded a nearly $3M grant to study CIPN in 2017, and developed a drug found to be effective in reducing a protein's ability to spread tumors in some mice. APX3330 is the culmination of Kelley's nearly three decades of research, and is now in phase 1 trials by Apexian Pharmaceuticals.