NK-1 Receptor Antagonists: A New Paradigm in Pharmacological Therapy
The neuropeptide substance P (SP) shows a widespread distribution in both the central and peripheral nervous systems and it is known that after binding to the neurokinin-1 (NK-1) receptors, SP regulates many biological functions in the central nervous system such as emotional behaviour, stress, depression, anxiety, emesis, migraine, alcohol addiction and neurodegeneration. SP has been also implicated in pain, inflammation, hepatotoxicity and in virus proliferation, and it plays an important role in cancer (e.g., tumour cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and the migration of tumour cells for invasion and metastasis). By contrast, it is known that after binding to NK-1 receptors, NK-1 receptor antagonists specifically inhibit the above-mentioned biological functions mediated by SP. Thus, these antagonists exert an anxyolitic, antidepressant, antiemetic, antimigraine, antialcohol addiction or neuroprotector effect in the central nervous system, and they play a role in analgesic, antiinflammatory, hepatoprotector processes and in antivirus proliferation. Regarding cancer, NK-1 receptor antagonists exert an antitumour action (inducing tumour cell death by apoptosis), and induce antiangiogenesis and inhibit the migration of tumour cells. It is also known that NK-1 receptors have a widespread distribution and that they are overexpressed in tumour cells. Thus, NK-1 receptor antagonists are molecularly targeted agents.
In general, current drugs have a single therapeutic effect, although less commonly they may exert several. However, the data reported above indicate that NK-1 receptor antagonists are promising drugs, exerting many therapeutic effects (the action of such antagonists is dose-dependent and, depending on the concentration, has more positive effects). In this review, we update the multiple therapeutic effects exerted by NK-1 receptor antagonists.
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