Ex vivo nonviral gene delivery of μ-opioid receptor to attenuate cancer-induced pain

Seiichi Yamano, Chi T. Viet, Dongmin Dang, Jisen Dai, Shigeru Hanatani, Tadahiro Takayama, Hironori Kasai, Kentaro Imamura, Ron Campbell, Yi Ye, John C. Dolan, William Myung Kwon, Stefan D. Schneider, Brian L. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Virus-mediated gene delivery shows promise for the treatment of chronic pain. However, viral vectors have cytotoxicity. To avoid toxicities and limitations of virus-mediated gene delivery, we developed a novel nonviral hybrid vector: HIV-1 Tat peptide sequence modified with histidine and cysteine residues combined with a cationic lipid. The vector has high transfection efficiency with little cytotoxicity in cancer cell lines including HSC-3 (human tongue squamous cell carcinoma) and exhibits differential expression in HSC-3 (∼45-fold) relative to HGF-1 (human gingival fibroblasts) cells. We used the nonviral vector to transfect cancer with OPRM1, the-opioid receptor gene, as a novel method for treating cancer-induced pain. After HSC-3 cells were transfected with OPRM1, a cancer mouse model was created by inoculating the transfected HSC-3 cells into the hind paw or tongue of athymic mice to determine the analgesic potential of OPRM1 transfection. Mice with HSC-3 tumors expressing OPRM1 demonstrated significant antinociception compared with control mice. The effect was reversible with local naloxone administration. We quantified β-endorphin secretion from HSC-3 cells and showed that HSC-3 cells transfected with OPRM1 secreted significantly more β-endorphin than control HSC-3 cells. These findings indicate that nonviral delivery of the OPRM1 gene targeted to the cancer microenvironment has an analgesic effect in a preclinical cancer model, and nonviral gene delivery is a potential treatment for cancer pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-251
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Cancer pain
  • Gene delivery
  • OPRM1
  • Oral squamous cell carcinoma
  • μ-opioid receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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