An estimated 30,000 people every year develop this cancer-induced pain from a destructive and hugely debilitating bone disease caused by their cancers.
It affects people with primary bone tumours, bone marrow cancers such as multiple myeloma and other forms, such as breast and prostate cancer, that commonly spread to bone.
Our goal is to identify and understand pain-related changes in patients with cancer-induced bone disease so that new approaches to target this pain can be developed. - Dr Claire Edwards, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences
Dr Claire Edwards is leading the Oxford research project which is believed to be the first of its kind. She said: 'The major clinical feature of this cancer-induced bone disease is significant and life-altering bone pain but it’s the thing that we understand least.
'We believe that tumour cells increase the expression of molecules that promote pain. Our goal is to identify and understand pain-related changes in patients with cancer-induced bone disease so that new approaches to target this pain can be developed.'
Not only is little understood about the causes of the acute bone pain but it is also very difficult to manage.
The Oxford project is being funded by Orthopaedic Research UK (ORUK), one of the country's leading charities working to improve the lives of people with bone and joint disease and injury.
ORUK Chief Executive Dr Arash Angadji said: 'Cancer-induced bone pain is a devastating and debilitating feature of tumour growth within bones.
'Surprisingly, despite its major clinical impact, there is limited research in this area and a poor understanding of how and why the pain develops.
'This research will be a key step in the goal of developing new, safe and effective approaches to managing cancer induced bone pain which will improve the quality of lives of so many people.'