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OHSU associated RNs contribute to Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU fatigue study

Understanding the source of chemotherapy-induced tiredness may help researchers find ways to counteract it

Monday January 13, 2014
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Two RNs associated with the Oregon Health & Science University contributed to a Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU study that may eventually help patients experiencing chemotherapy-induced fatigue get some much needed rest, according to a Dec. 10 news release.

OHSU School of Nursing doctoral student Kris Weymann, RN, MS, worked with Daniel L. Marks, MD, PhD, a lead author on the “A Role for Orexin in Cytotoxic Chemotherapy-Induced Fatigue” study. Marks also is an investigator with the Knight Cancer Institute.

Lisa Wood, RN, PhD, associate professor in the OHSU School of Nursing, and Xinxia Zhu, who holds an MD equivalent from China, contributed to the study, according to the news release.

“As a nurse I witnessed the debilitating effects of chemotherapy-induced fatigue and the delay in recovery that resulted,” Weymann said in the release. “I wanted to better understand the causes of this fatigue, so that we can develop therapies to prevent or manage it and improve functional recovery from cancer.”

The study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, found chemotherapy disrupts orexin neurons in the brain. Orexin neurons produce a small protein, the orexin neuropeptide, known to be involved in promoting wakefulness. Chemotherapy-induced fatigue was reversed when an orexin neuropeptide was given to rodents to counteract the disruption.

Understanding the source of chemotherapy-induced fatigue in cancer patients represents a turning point in identifying ways to counteract this common debilitating side effect. The results, produced by providing orexin-A neuropeptides to counteract fatigue in rats and mice, suggest narcolepsy drugs in development, including those in advanced clinical trials, may prove beneficial to cancer patients.
Numerous Phase II and Phase III clinical trials are underway that replace or bypass the function of the orexin neuropeptide to treat narcolepsy, a disorder characterized by disrupted wakefulness and impaired orexin neuron signaling.

Since chemotherapy was found to disrupt orexin neuron function, further investigation of orexin replacement for chemotherapy-induced fatigue is warranted based on the animal study results, according to the release. For more on the study, visit OHSU.edu and search for A Role For Orexin in Cytotoxic.


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