Doctors from the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) revealed that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19, can affect the nervous system in a way that would temporarily reduce pain in cancer patients.
“Some patients with pain related to their cancer have experienced a significant reduction or even disappearance of this pain during the acute phase of the infection”, indicates the study, published today in the specialized scientific journal “Pain”.
The study specifically collects three cases of cancer patients investigated by a team led by Dr. Lisa Hentch, from the Palliative Medicine section of the HUG, and Matteo Coen, from Internal Medicine, supported by specialists in neurology, radiology and pathology.
The patients, men between 67 and 84 years old, were admitted to HUG after contracting COVID-19 and their cancer pain disappeared shortly after infection (in one of the patients the pain gradually returned after recovering from the viral disease).
Given this phenomenon, experts consider the hypothesis that the generalized inflammation that the coronavirus causes in many organs affects the insula, one of the deepest parts of the brain, which has, among other functions, that of transmitting to the human being, perceptions such as the pain.
Previously, the same Swiss doctors had found that some patients lost the sensation of suffocation due to lack of oxygen when they suffered COVID-19, something that they also associated with a possible influence of the coronavirus in the cerebral insula.
Doctors emphasize that this is a hypothesis and that another explanation could be the influence of SARS-CoV-2 on the peripheral nervous system, which also participates in the transmission of pain and suffocation sensations.
“More studies are needed to confirm these observations and validate these hypotheses, although these may shed light on the mechanisms responsible for pain perception, opening new avenues in research and therapies,” said HUG in the statement in which they announced this finding.