Though cancer treatment has come a long way in helping to save the lives of patients, some of these therapies can cause significant nerve pain. A new study has found an unexpected yet effective way to address this problem. Known as nicotinamide riboside (NR), this vitamin B3 supplement helped to relieve the pain of rats on cancer drugs, and researchers hope it can do the same for humans. It's also not too hard to find — the supplement occurs naturally in products such as beer and milk, The Daily Mail reported.

The study reported that female mice experiencing pain as a side effect of the common cancer drug paclitaxel experienced significant relief when given a nicotinamide riboside (NR) supplement. Following chemotherapy, mice given this supplement could withstand more pokes on their sensitive feet than mice who were not given the supplement.

“Our findings support the idea that NR could potentially be used to prevent or mitigate peripheral neuropathy in cancer patients,” said study author Dr. Marta Hamity, The Daily Mail reported.

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NR is a newly discovered form of vitamin B3 that has been found to increase levels of a cell metabolite that is critical for cellular energy production and protection from DNA damage, The Loop reported. In addition to the benefits to nerve pain, this vitamin has also been shown to help mice resist weight gain, improve control of blood sugar and cholesterol, and even lengthen lifespan.

Not every patient who receives chemotherapy will develop nerve pain. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering, this risk depends on several factors such as what kind of chemotherapy drugs were used and their dosage. Also, the extent of the nerve pain can also vary greatly, with some drugs causing discomfort in the hands and feet, while others may affect nerves that control movement and automatic internal functions, such as the ability to control their bowels or blood pressure.

For the new study, mice had their feet poked inside of a dimly lit room. In general, mice that did not receive any chemotherapy did not withdraw their feet when they were poked. Chemo-treated mice, however, were extra sensitive to the poking and reacted by moving their feet. The team noted that miced that received treatment and NR though were able to tolerate more pokes on their feet, The Daily Mail reported.

The supplement has already been found safe for human oral consumption. In addition to potentially being used for people at risk for nerve pain caused by chemotherapy, further therapies are set to investigate its possible use for controlling cholesterol, and treating diabetes and diabetes.

Source: Hamity MV, White SR, et al. Nicotinamide riboside, a form of vitamin B3 and NAD+ precursor, relieves the nociceptive and aversive dimensions of paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy in female rats. OvidInsights . 2017

See Also:

What Is Niacin And How Much Of This B3 Vitamin Do You Need?

What Is Chemotherapy? The Ins And Outs Of Treatment, And How It Affects Cancer Patients