Bone cancer pain: Causes, consequences, and therapeutic opportunities

Patrick Mantyh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

228 Scopus citations


Common cancers, including cancers of the breast, lung, and prostate, frequently metastasize to multiple bones where they can cause significant and life-altering pain. Similar to cancer itself, the factors that drive bone cancer pain evolve and change with disease progression. Once cancer cells have metastasized to bone, both the cancer cells and their associated stromal cells generate pain by releasing algogenic substances including protons, bradykinin, endothelins, prostaglandins, proteases, and tyrosine kinase activators. The release of these factors by cancer/stromal cells can induce sensitization and activation of nerve fibers that innervate the bone. Additionally, these factors can drive a remarkable increase in the number, size, and activity of bone-destroying osteoclasts, which can ultimately result in fracture of the tumor-bearing bone. Tumor growth in bone can also generate a neuropathic pain by directly injuring nerve fibers as well as inducing an active and highly pathological sprouting of both sensory and sympathetic nerve fibers that normally innervate the bone. This structural reorganization of sensory and sympathetic nerve fibers in the bone, combined with the cellular and neurochemical reorganization that occurs in the spinal cord and brain, appears to contribute to the peripheral and central sensitization that is common in advanced bone cancer pain. These mechanistic insights have begun to lead to advances in both how we understand and treat bone cancer pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S54-S62
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Bone cancer
  • Bone cancer pain
  • Cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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