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Understanding breast cancer induced bone pain

Dr. Damaraju's picture Dr. Gurmit Singh

Breast cancers that spread (metastasize) to the bone frequently cause debilitating pain and reduced quality of life for patients. Unfortunately, standard pain treatments can become ineffective over time and the most severe type of pain, called breakthrough pain, often remains uncontrolled. Little is known about how bone pain occurs and Dr. Gurmit Singh, Professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at McMaster University and Senior Scientist at Hamilton Health Sciences, and his team are working to better understand how bone pain develops to discover more effective treatments. 

Using a mouse model of breast cancer tumours, their project, funded by Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region (2010 – 2013), assessed the ability of two different drugs to reduce pain-related behaviour in mice. Only one of the drugs tested – sulfasalazine – demonstrated a reduction in pain-related behaviour, which could provide an opportunity for better pain control and better quality of life for women with breast cancer bone metastasis.

“Funding from Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has enabled my team to identify how bone pain is caused by breast cancer cells,” said Dr. Singh, Principal Investigator. “This discovery will allow us to develop and test new treatment strategies to overcome bone pain caused by breast cancer and improve the quality of life for those living with cancer.”

Dr. Singh recently received another research grant from CBCF-Ontario Region to build on these findings and is continuing his work to address this important symptom of breast cancer bone metastasis. 

About the Grant

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Ontario Region’s Research Project Grants Program funds laboratory and pre-clinical investigations, clinical research, psychosocial, cancer control, survivorship, quality of life, and other breast cancer research projects. Proposed studies may include participatory, community-based methodologies. Projects may be funded for up to $150,000 per year for three years.

Areas of Focus: Biology of Breast Cancer; Cancer Control, Survivorship & Outcomes Research

Information about researchers (McMaster University)

  • Dr. Gurmit Singh (Principal Investigator) is Professor, Pathology & Molecular Medicine.
    Dr. Singh serves as the Ontario Region’s Board Chair

  • Dr. Eric Seidlitz (Additional Author) is a postdoctoral fellow  

  • Dr. James Henry (Co-Applicant) is Professor, Institute for Pain Research and Care

  • Dr. Margaret Fahnestock (Co-Applicant) is Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences

  • Dr. Michelle Ghert (Co-Applicant) is Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

  • Dr. Snezana Popovic (Co-Applicant) is Assistant Professor, Pathology & Molecular Medicine

  • Dr. Patangi Rangachari (Co-Applicant)  is Professor Emeritus, Medicine