Cancer cells secrete pronociceptive mediators that sensitize adjacent sensory neurons and cause pain. Identification and characterization of these mediators could pinpoint novel targets for cancer pain treatment. In this study, we identified candidate genes in cancer cell lines that encode for secreted or cell surface proteins that may drive nociception. To undertake this work, we used an acute cancer pain mouse model, transcriptomic analysis of publicly available human tumor-derived cell line data, and a literature review. Cancer cell line supernatants were assigned a phenotype based on evoked nociceptive behavior in an acute cancer pain mouse model. We compared gene expression data from nociceptive and nonnociceptive cell lines. Our analyses revealed differentially expressed genes and pathways; many of the identified genes were not previously associated with cancer pain signaling. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and disintegrin metalloprotease domain 17 (ADAM17) were identified as potential targets among the differentially expressed genes. We found that the nociceptive cell lines contained significantly more ADAM17 protein in the cell culture supernatant compared to nonnociceptive cell lines. Cytoplasmic EGFR was present in almost all (>90%) tongue primary afferent neurons in mice. Monoclonal antibody against EGFR, cetuximab, inhibited cell line supernatant-induced nociceptive behavior in an acute oral cancer pain mouse model. We infer from these data that ADAM17-EGFR signaling is involved in cancer mediator-induced nociception. The differentially expressed genes and their secreted protein products may serve as candidate therapeutic targets for oral cancer pain and warrant further evaluation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine