Biologic mechanisms of oral cancer pain and implications for clinical therapy

C. T. Viet, B. L. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cancer pain is an ever-present public health concern. With innovations in treatment, cancer patients are surviving longer, but uncontrollable pain creates a poor quality of life for these patients. Oral cancer is unique in that it causes intense pain at the primary site and significantly impairs speech, swallowing, and masticatory functions. We propose that oral cancer pain has underlying biologic mechanisms that are generated within the cancer microenvironment. A comprehensive understanding of key mediators that control cross-talk between the cancer and peripheral nervous system, and possible interventions, underlies effective cancer pain management. The purpose of this review is to explore the current studies on oral cancer pain and their implications in clinical management for cancer pain in general. Furthermore, we will explore the endogenous opioid systems and novel cancer pain therapeutics that target these systems, which could solve the issue of opiate tolerance and improve quality of life in oral cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-453
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dental research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • cancer pain
  • cancer pain therapy
  • endogenous opioids
  • head and neck cancer
  • opiates
  • oral cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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