Methadone increased effects of conventional cancer therapies

Complementary Medicine Research Award 2017 for Dr. Claudia Friesen
Dr. Claudia Friesen received this year's Research Award for Complementary Medicine as part of the Medical Week. The Working Group for Naturopathy, Complementary Medicine, Acupuncture and Environmental Medicine (NATUM) thus recognizes the work presented by Friesen “D, L-methadone increases the cytotoxic effect of conventional cancer therapies”.

The Ulm scientist has been studying the effects of methadone on cancer cells for years. In experiments with mice, she was able to show that the opioid increases the effects of chemotherapy drugs and can thus inhibit cancer growth.

Dr. Claudia Friesen used mice to investigate how cancer cells react to D, L-methadone. The focus was on various types of tumors - including breast and ovarian cancer.

In laboratory experiments, she observed the following: Since tumor cells have well-developed receptors for opioids on their surface, methadone can easily dock there and trigger various processes. On the one hand, it is able to initiate so-called apoptosis signaling pathways. That is, methadone can cause the cancer cell to destroy itself. In addition, it acts as a door opener for the cancer medication used: the absorption of the “cell poison” (the cytostatic) into the cell is facilitated and the transport out of the cell is inhibited, so that the medication accumulates better in the cancer cells.

Taken together, the effects described can accelerate the death of the tumor cell. At the same time, the medication does not have an increased effect in the surrounding healthy tissue because it has only a few or no opioid receptors.

So far, the observations refer exclusively to preclinical experiments with cell cultures or animal experiments. Controlled clinical studies in patients are still pending. Therefore, there is currently no sign of widespread use of methadone as an anti-tumor substance.

Nevertheless, NATUM classifies the results of Dr. Claudia Friesen is so hopeful that with the award she would like to explicitly encourage the scientist to carry out further research projects for the benefit of cancer patients, the working group justifies her decision.

Original work: C. Friesen: "D, L-methadone increases the cytotoxic effect of conventional cancer therapies", DZO 2017; 49 (2): p. 61-67.

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