The majority of patients with oral cancer report intense pain that is only partially managed by current analgesics. Thus, there is a strong need to study mechanisms as well as develop novel analgesics for oral cancer pain. Current study employed an orthotopic tongue cancer model with molecular and non-reflexive behavioral assays to determine possible mechanisms of oral cancer pain. Human oral squamous cell carcinoma cells line, HSC2, was injected into the tongue of male athymic mice and tumor growth was observed by day 6. Immunohistological analyses revealed a well-differentiated tumor with a localized immune response and pronounced sensory and sympathetic innervation and vascularization. The tumor expressed TMPRSS2, a protein previously reported with oral squamous cell carcinoma. ATF3 expression in trigeminal ganglia was not altered by tumor growth. Molecular characterization of the model demonstrated altered expression of several pain-related genes, out of which up-regulation of BDNF was most striking. Moreover, BDNF protein expression in trigeminal ganglia neurons was increased and inhibition of BDNF signaling with a tyrosine kinase B antagonist, ANA-12, reversed pain-like behaviors induced by the oral tumor. Oral squamous cell carcinoma tumor growth was also associated with a reduction in feeding, mechanical hypersensitivity in the face, as well as spontaneous pain behaviors as measured by the conditioned place preference test, all of which were reversed by analgesics. Interestingly, injection of HSC2 into the hindpaw did not reproduce this spectrum of pain behaviors; nor did injection of a colonic cancer cell line into the tongue. Taken together, this orthotopic oral cancer pain model reproduces the spectrum of pain reported by oral cancer patients, including higher order cognitive changes, and demonstrates that BDNF signaling constitutes a novel mechanism by which oral squamous cell carcinoma induces pain. Identification of the key role of tyrosine kinase B signaling in oral cancer pain may serve as a novel target for drug development.
- oral cancer pain
- orthotopic model
- tongue cancer
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine