Oral cancer pain is debilitating and understanding mechanisms for it is critical to develop novel treatment strategies treatment strategies. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling is elevated in oral tumor biopsies and is involved with tumor progression. Whether BDNF signaling in oral tumors contributes to cancer-induced pain is not known. The current study evaluates a novel peripheral role of BDNF-tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) signaling in oral cancer pain. Using human oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) cells and an orthotopic mouse tongue cancer pain model, we found that BDNF levels were upregulated in superfusates and lysates of tumor tongues and that BDNF was expressed by OSCC cells themselves. Moreover, neutralization of BDNF or inhibition of TrkB activity by ANA12, within the tumor-bearing tongue reversed tumor-induced pain-like behaviors in a sex-dependent manner. Oral squamous cell carcinoma conditioned media also produced pain-like behaviors in naïve male mice that was reversed by local injection of ANA12. On a physiological level, using single-fiber tongue-nerve electrophysiology, we found that acutely blocking TrkB receptors reversed tumor-induced mechanical sensitivity of A-slow high threshold mechanoreceptors. Furthermore, single-cell reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction data of retrogradely labeled lingual neurons demonstrated expression of full-form TrkB and truncated TrkB in distinct neuronal subtypes. Last but not the least, intra-TG siRNA for TrkB also reversed tumor-induced orofacial pain behaviors. Our data suggest that TrkB activities on lingual sensory afferents are partly controlled by local release of OSCC-derived BDNF, thereby contributing to oral cancer pain. This is a novel finding and the first demonstration of a peripheral role for BDNF signaling in oral cancer pain.
- Oral cancer
- Tongue cancer
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine