Demethylating drugs as novel analgesics for cancer pain

Chi T. Viet, Dongmin Dang, Yi Ye, Kentaro Ono, Ronald R. Campbell, Brian L. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In this study, we evaluated the analgesic potential of demethylating drugs on oral cancer pain. Although demethylating drugs could affect expression of many genes, we focused on the mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) gene pathway, because of its role in pain processing. We determined the antinociceptive effect of OPRM1 re-expression in a mouse oral cancer model.

Experimental Design: Using a mouse oral cancer model, we determined whether demethylating drugs produced antinociception through re-expression of OPRM1. We then re-expressed OPRM1 with adenoviral transduction and determined if, and by what mechanism, OPRM1 re-expression produced antinociception. To determine the clinical significance of OPRM1 on cancer pain, we quantified OPRM1 methylation in painful cancer tissues and nonpainful contralateral normal tissues of patients with oral cancer, and nonpainful dysplastic tissues of patients with oral dysplasia.

Results: Wedemonstrated thatOPRM1was methylated in cancer tissue, but not normal tissue, of patients with oral cancer, and not in dysplastic tissues from patients with oral dysplasia. Treatment with demethylating drugs resulted in mechanical and thermal antinociception in the mouse cancer model. This behavioral change correlated with OPRM1 re-expression in the cancer and associated neurons. Similarly, adenoviralmediated OPRM1 re-expression on cancer cells resulted in naloxone-reversible antinociception. OPRM1 reexpression on oral cancer cells in vitro increased β-endorphin secretion from the cancer, and decreased activation of neurons that were treated with cancer supernatant. Conclusion:Our study establishes the regulatory role ofmethylation in cancer pain.OPRM1 re-expression in cancer cells produces antinociception through cancer-mediated endogenous opioid secretion. Demethylating drugs have an analgesic effect that involves OPRM1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4882-4893
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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