Approximately 13.7 million Americans are living with a history of cancer. Many of these survivors suffer from toxic side effects of cancer-fighting drugs, including chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). This condition is estimated to afflict as many as 40% of patients who receive chemotherapy.
CIPN can manifest as a wide range of sensory abnormalities that typically start in the hands or feet: tingling, numbness, shooting pains, muscle cramps, loss of muscle coordination, and extreme sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. Not surprisingly, the most disabling forms of CIPN cause unrelieved pain and can result in a dramatic loss of functional ability and poor quality of life. These outcomes impact treatment choice and treatment adherence, which can lower overall survival rates. Indeed, the National Cancer Institute highlights CIPN as “one of the most common reasons that cancer patients stop their treatment early." How and why such disabling sensory symptoms arise in CIPN are enigmas, and are the subjects of the Thompson Family Foundation Initiative at Columbia University (TFFI).
Our understanding of CIPN is in its infancy. Although CIPN results from almost all classes of chemotherapies, the underlying mechanisms remain speculative at best. Therefore, CIPN patients have few treatment options. A handful of preventive and therapeutic strategies have shown promise in pilot studies, but few have been effective in randomized clinical trials. Currently, no FDA-approved drugs exist for CIPN prevention or treatment. We believe that the lack of understanding of CIPN’s pathophysiology represents a major hurdle towards developing effective, evidence-based therapies.
The Thompson Family Foundation has aligned with a multidisciplinary team of world-class basic, translational, and clinical neuroscientists from Columbia University to create a unique, collaborative, research initiative aimed at identifying the causes and, ultimately, the cures for CIPN.