Tumor-induced injury of primary afferent sensory nerve fibers in bone cancer pain

Christopher M. Peters, Joseph R. Ghilardi, Cathy P. Keyser, Kazufumi Kubota, Theodore H. Lindsay, Nancy M. Luger, David B. Mach, Matthew J. Schwei, Molly A. Sevcik, Patrick W. Mantyh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Bone is the most common site of chronic pain in patients with metastatic cancer. What remains unclear are the mechanisms that generate this pain and why bone cancer pain can be so severe and refractory to treatment with opioids. Here we show that following injection and confinement of NCTC 2472 osteolytic tumor cells within the mouse femur, tumor cells sensitize and injure the unmyelinated and myelinated sensory fibers that innervate the marrow and mineralized bone. This tumor-induced injury of sensory nerve fibers is accompanied by an increase in ongoing and movement-evoked pain behaviors, an upregulation of activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) and galanin by sensory neurons that innervate the tumor-bearing femur, upregulation of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and hypertrophy of satellite cells surrounding sensory neuron cell bodies within the ipsilateral dorsal root ganglia (DRG), and macrophage infiltration of the DRG ipsilateral to the tumor-bearing femur. Similar neurochemical changes have been described following peripheral nerve injury and in other non-cancerous neuropathic pain states. Chronic treatment with gabapentin did not influence tumor growth, tumor-induced bone destruction or the tumor-induced neurochemical reorganization that occurs in sensory neurons or the spinal cord, but it did attenuate both ongoing and movement-evoked bone cancer-related pain behaviors. These results suggest that even when the tumor is confined within the bone, a component of bone cancer pain is due to tumor-induced injury to primary afferent nerve fibers that innervate the tumor-bearing bone. Tumor-derived, inflammatory, and neuropathic mechanisms may therefore be simultaneously driving this chronic pain state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-100
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Gabapentin
  • Metastasis
  • Nerve injury
  • Nociception
  • Skeletal malignancies
  • Tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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