Finding reasonable and effective treatments for arthritic pain is an important area of research for good reason. Between 60 to 90% of cats show osteoarthritic changes on radiographs, and 40% show clinical symptoms of osteoarthritic pain at some point in their lives. This pain is not just due to inflammation, but to a multitude of factors involving nerves and joints.
Pain acts locally via neurogenic inflammation. But it also has systemic effects, including cognitive ones, explained Duncan Lascelles BSc, BVSc, PhD, Professor of Translational Pain Research and Management at North Carolina State University, in aVetGirl seminar. His research is looking at creating monoclonal antibodies against nerve growth factor (NGF). Damaged tissue increases NGF production, which, in turn, attracts inflammatory cells.
Monoclonal antibodies against something like NGF are species specific. For cats, the current version is frunevetmab, a felinized monoclonal antibody. Studies have shown that one injection of these compounds leads to an improvement in comfort and mobility for at least eight weeks. While more studies need to be done, early research suggests that arthritic cats do better on frunevetmab than on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs), which have been the mainstay drugs for osteoarthritis.
Use of monoclonal antibodies against NGF has shown side effects in humans.