Blockade of endothelin receptors reduces tumor-induced ongoing pain and evoked hypersensitivity in a rat model of facial carcinoma induced pain

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Pain reported by patients with head and neck cancer is characterized as persistent pain with mechanical allodynia. Pain management is inadequate for many patients, highlighting the need for improved therapies. We examined the hypothesis that the mixed endothelin ETA and ETB receptor antagonist, bosentan, reduces tumor-induced ongoing pain and evoked hypersensitivity in a rat model of facial cancer pain. Facial cancer was induced by inoculating a suspension of Walker-256 cells into the rat's right vibrissal pad. Tumor-bearing rats developed heat and tactile hypersensitivity along with increased spontaneous grooming behavior. Systemic morphine (2.5 mg/kg, s.c.) blocked tumor-induced thermal and tactile hypersensitivity, with a lower dose (0.625 mg/kg, s.c.) effective only against thermal hypersensitivity. Systemic bosentan blocked tumor-induced thermal hypersensitivity only at a high (300 mg/kg, p.o.) dose, but failed to modify tactile hypersensitivity. Co-administration of the low doses of bosentan and morphine resulted in improved reduction of the tumor-induced heat and tactile hypersensitivity compared to either dose alone. Bosentan (100 mg/kg, p.o.) reduced spontaneous grooming and induced conditioned place preference (CPP) selectively in tumor-bearing rats, suggesting that bosentan reduces tumor-induced ongoing pain at a lower dose than required to block tumor-induced hypersensitivity. This study provides evidence that endothelins may mediate tumor-induced ongoing pain and thermal hypersensitivity. In addition, bosentan enhanced morphine's effects on blocking tumor-induced heat and tactile hypersensitivity indicating that endothelin antagonists may be beneficial therapeutic targets that can be used to manage cancer-induced facial pain with opioid-sparing effects.

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