Combined Opioidergic and Beta-Adrenergic Drugs for Cancer and Immune Diseases | Rutgers University Innovation Ventures

Combined Opioidergic and Beta-Adrenergic Drugs for Cancer and Immune Diseases


Combination therapy of naltrexone, DPDPE, and propranolol decreases tumor volume in rat xenographs (A) and increases cytolytic protein perforin in natural killer (NK) cells (B). This pharmacological cocktail increased efficacy of inhibition of tumorigenesis with addition of each drug.

Invention Summary:

The body’s ability to stabilize its immune system is a key component of current and uprising immune disease therapies. Immunotherapy is one of the leading markets for treatments such as cancer, and immunomodulated diseases such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and influenza. Though the impact of immunotherapies in providing new therapeutics increases patient stability and health, they are expensive and are selectively efficacious to specific patient populations. Current research identifies the stress axis as a potential target of cancer and immunomodulated diseases, as it’s highly associated with immunity. Though associated with cancer cell growth and function, the relationship between two potential G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) targets in the stress axis, the opioid receptor and the beta-2 adrenergic receptor (B2AR) has not been explored as a pharmacological approach to cancer and immunomodulated diseases.

Rutgers researchers have formulated a novel therapeutic for cancer and immunomodulated diseases by controlling two components of the stress axis, the mu opioid receptor (MOR) and the B2AR. This formulation combines a delta-opioid receptor (DOR) agonist, a B2AR antagonist, and a MOR antagonist to promote immune cell cytolytic activity. This novel therapeutic approach inhibits MOR oligomerization with B2AR to inhibit tumorigenesis and activate immune cell function. DPDPE, a DOR agonist, propranolol, a B2AR antagonist, and naltrexone, an MOR antagonist, reduces tumor volume and increases tumor cell apoptosis, and immune cell cytolytic activity. As naltrexone and propranolol are both FDA approved, have limited toxicity, and are inexpensive, this novel pharmacological agent tackles common issues faced with current immunotherapies. 


  • Reduced drug development cost using FDA approved drugs propranolol and naltrexone.
  • Increased efficacy with pharmacological cocktail versus alone.
  • Efficacious in in vitro cell models (cancer and NK cell lines) and in rat xenograph models.

Market Applications:

  • Inexpensive immunomodulatory agent for cancer and diseases involving the immune system.

Intellectual Property & Development Status: Patent pending. Available for licensing and/or research collaboration.

Patent Information:
ID: 2021-102
Dipak Sarkar
Ryan Escolin
Licensing Manager, Life Sciences
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey