Gavril Pasternak, MD, PhD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute, New York.
Dr. Pasternak is developing a pain medication derived from the opiates that will be as effective in managing pain without the side effects.
Gavril Pasternak, MD, PhD, is the Anne Burnett Tandy Chair of Neurology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute, New York.
His laboratory’s primary focus is the molecular mechanisms of opioid action. Opioids are among the most common pain medications prescribed for a variety of problems. The recent cloning of four genes encoding opioid receptors has led to focusing attention on correlating these various cloned receptors with pharmacological actions.
The Pasternak team has identified a single opioid receptor gene that generates a multitude of different opioid receptor subtypes through a mechanism commonly used to enhance protein diversity, alternative splicing. Early studies identified a number of splice variants in two specific regions of the receptor. Structural differences in these regions influence the activation patterns of the opioids. Together, these opioid receptor splice variants may help explain the clinical variability of the drugs among patients and provide insights into the importance of individualized therapy for every patient in pain.
The presence of multiple opioid receptors opens new perspectives in the actions of analgesics and in the development of new, highly selective analgesics with fewer side effects. The Pasternak laboratory is working to develop an opioid analog that will meet these criteria.
Dr. Pasternak earned his medical degree and his doctorate at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md. He completed his residencies and fellowship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.