Olea Europea-derived phenolic products attenuate antinociceptive morphine tolerance: an innovative strategic approach to treat cancer pain.

C. Muscoli, F. Lauro, C. D'Agostino, S. Ilari, L. A. Giancotti, M. Gliozzi, N. Costa, C. Carresi, V. Musolino, F. Casale, D. Ventrice, E. Oliverio, E. Palma, S. Nistico', A. Procopio, V. Mollace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Morphine and related opioid drugs are currently the major drugs for severe pain. Their clinical utility is limited in the management of severe cancer pain due to the rapid development of tolerance. Restoring opioid efficacy is therefore of great clinical importance. A great body of evidence suggests the key role of free radicals and posttranslational modulation in the development of tolerance to the analgesic activity of morphine. Epidemiological studies have shown a relationship between the Mediterranean diet and a reduced incidence of pathologies such as coronary heart disease and cancer. A central hallmark of this diet is the high consumption of virgin olive oil as the main source of fat which contains antioxidant components in the non-saponifiable fraction, including phenolic compounds absent in seed oils. Here, we show that in a rodent model of opiate tolerance, removal of the free radicals with phenolic compounds of olive oil such as hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein reinstates the analgesic action of morphine. Chronic injection of morphine in mice led to the development of tolerance and this was associated with increased nitrotyrosin and malondialdehyde (MDA) formation together with nitration and deactivation of MnSOD in the spinal cord. Removal of free radicals by hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein blocked morphine tolerance by inhibiting nitration and MDA formation and replacing the MnSOD activity. The phenolic fraction of virgin olive oil exerts antioxidant activities in vivo and free radicals generation occurring during chronic morphine administration play a crucial role in the development of opioid tolerance. Our data suggest novel therapeutic approach in the management of chronic cancer pain, in particular for those patients who require long-term opioid treatment for pain relief without development of tolerance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-116
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cancer Research
  • Immunology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Oncology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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