Tumor-evoked hyperalgesia and sensitization of nociceptive dorsal horn neurons in a murine model of cancer pain

Sergey G. Khasabov, Darryl T. Hamamoto, Catherine Harding-Rose, Donald A. Simone

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44 Scopus citations


Pain associated with cancer, particularly when tumors metastasize to bone, is often severe and debilitating. Better understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying cancer pain will likely lead to the development of more effective treatments. The aim of this study was to characterize changes in response properties of nociceptive dorsal horn neurons following implantation of fibrosarcoma cells into and around the calcaneus bone, an established model of cancer pain. Extracellular electrophysiological recordings were made from wide dynamic range (WDR) and high threshold (HT) dorsal horn neurons in mice with tumor-evoked hyperalgesia and control mice. WDR and HT neurons were examined for ongoing activity and responses to mechanical, heat, and cold stimuli applied to the plantar surface of the hind paw. Behavioral experiments showed that mice exhibited hyperalgesia to mechanical and heat stimuli applied to their tumor-bearing hind paw. WDR, but not HT, nociceptive dorsal horn neurons in tumor-bearing mice exhibited sensitization to mechanical, heat, and cold stimuli and may contribute to tumor-evoked hyperalgesia. Specifically, the proportion of WDR neurons that exhibited ongoing activity and their evoked discharge rates were greater in tumor-bearing than in control mice. In addition, WDR neurons exhibited lower response thresholds for mechanical and heat stimuli, and increased responses to suprathreshold mechanical, heat, and cold stimuli. Our findings show that sensitization of WDR neurons contributes to cancer pain and supports the notion that the mechanisms underlying cancer pain differ from those that contribute to inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-19
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 14 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Christopher Bjiorn for his technical assistance. This study was supported by grants from the University of Minnesota Graduate School (DTH) and the National Institutes of Health; DA18231 (DTH), DA11471, and CA91007 (DAS).


  • Cancer pain
  • Dorsal horn
  • Electrophysiology
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Sensitization
  • Spinal cord


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