Research into a compound that appears to play a role in the development of opioid tolerance may provide a research target to lessen the development of opioid tolerance, according to a study published online. 

“Opioid tolerance is a growing problem among chronic pain patients and cancer patients in particular,” Chih-Peng Lin, MD, assistant professor, Department of Anesthesiology, National Taiwan University College of Medicine said in a press release. “We found that CXCL1, a protein produced by spinal cord tissue, contributes to opioid tolerance. By neutralizing CXCL1 in patients, we might help solve the problem of opioid tolerance.”

Lin and colleagues compared patients with cancer-related pain controlled by strong opioids such as morphine with age-matched control patients without cancer who were not taking opioids. In both human patients and rats, subjects regularly given opioids had an increased concentration of CXCL1 compared to those not regularly administered opioids. 

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“Opioids are a mainstay of treatment for severe pain, especially cancer pain,” said Lin. “By suppressing opioid tolerance, we can help patients achieve prolonged pain relief without the side effects of increased opioid dosages.”

The researchers noted that further study is needed to confirm their findings. 


1. Lin C, et al. Anesthesiology; 2015; DOI:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000523