Morphine and its congener opioids are the main therapy for severe pain in cancer. However, chronic morphine treatment stimulates angiogenesis and tumour growth in mice. We examined if celecoxib (a cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor) prevents morphine-induced tumour growth without compromising analgesia. The effect of chronic treatment with celecoxib (by gavage) and/or morphine (subcutaneously), or PBS on tumour prostaglandin E2 (PGE 2), COX-2, angiogenesis, tumour growth, metastasis, pain behaviour and survival was determined in a highly invasive SCK breast cancer model in A/J mice. Two weeks of chronic morphine treatment at clinically relevant doses stimulates COX-2 and PGE2 (4.5-fold compared to vehicle alone) and angiogenesis in breast tumours in mice. This is accompanied by increased tumour weight (∼35%) and increased metastasis and reduced survival. Co-administration of celecoxib prevents these morphine-induced effects. In addition, morphine and celecoxib together provided better analgesia than either agent alone. Celecoxib prevents morphine-induced stimulation of COX-2, PGE 2, angiogenesis, tumour growth, metastasis and mortality without compromising analgesia in a murine breast cancer model. In fact, the combination provided significantly better analgesia than with morphine or celecoxib alone. Clinical trials of this combination for analgesia in chronic and severe pain in cancer are warranted.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are thankful to Mihir Gupta, Pankaj Gupta, MD and Michael J Franklin for critical review of the paper, to Ms Carol Taubert for preparation of the document, and to Brent W Williams for technical assistance. This work is supported by NIH Grants HL68802, CA109582 and the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (to KG) and CA109582 (to RJG).
- Breast cancer