The first patient

Like many breakthroughs in the history of medicine, relief of neuropathic pain after treatment with an EGFR-inhibitor was a serendipitous discovery.

“Martin”, a 63-year-old man, was referred to the oncology clinic for treatment of metastatic and locally recurrent rectal cancer. The pelvic recurrence affected his sciatic nerve, causing excruciating neuropathic pain radiating down his leg. Despite high doses of opiates, he was bound to a wheelchair and unable to sleep and enjoy life.

Christian Kersten, founder of AKIGAI, became Martin’s oncologist. He treated Martin with a combination of chemotherapy and an EGFR-inhibitor, which was considered cutting-edge targeted therapy at that time (2007). Martin’s pain, which had been steadily increasing for over two years, disappeared completely within hours of the first EGFR-inhibitor infusion. This effect was repeated and maintained beyond two years, even as Martin’s pelvic tumor eventually grew. This led Dr. Kersten to hypothesize that Martin’s pain relief was driven by a mechanism unrelated to the EGFR-inhibitor’s anti-cancer effect.

Marte Cameron, also an AKIGAI founder, treated Martin together with Dr. Kersten. She was inspired by what they had observed and documented Martin’s case in a manuscript intended to inform other clinicians faced with similar intractable neuropathic cancer pain. Her clinical and research experience in symptom management caused her to alert Dr. Kersten…

Hold on, Christian, this is important! Neuropathic pain textbooks may have to be rewritten!

When Dr. Kersten, with a PhD in cell signaling, began to dig deeper into the biology of neuropathic pain, he discovered that the EGFR pathway, which was well-established in cancer, was also involved in neuropathic pain.

Today, AKIGAI founders hold a broad global patent for use of EGFR-inhibition against neuropathic pain.