Vincristine-induced neuropathy in rat: electrophysiological and histological study

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Peripheral sensory-motor neuropathy is one of the most frequent side effects of vincristine (VCR) administration, which often limits its usefulness in the treatment of a wide range of neoplastic diseases. The purpose of this work is to study VCR neurotoxicity in experimental animals from clinical, electrophysiological, and histological points of view. Sixty-five rats were used as a control group and 31 rats were divided into two groups and given VCR in two different regimens: the fixed-dose group (0.2 mg/kg) and the increasing-dose group (0.1 mg/kg, by an increment of 0.05 mg/kg/week). VCR was given intraperitoneally once weekly for five consecutive weeks. Electrophysiological examinations of the control and both treated groups were performed and included measurements of nerve conduction velocity and action potential (AP) amplitude of sciatic and tail nerves weekly during the period of treatment and 14 weeks after discontinuation of treatment. Histological sections of sciatic nerves were examined after the appearance of early electrophysiological changes, at the end of the 5th, and 19th weeks of the study (14 weeks after discontinuation of treatment). With the progress of the treatment, an increasing number of rats showing signs of neurological deficits were observed. During the first 5 weeks of this study, electrophysiological testing showed a nonsignificant difference in the conduction velocities of sciatic and tail nerves between the control and the treated groups, whereas a significant decrease in the amplitude of the sensory nerve action potential (SNAP) and compound muscle action potential (CMAP) of the tested nerves was recorded. The reduction in the AP amplitude was associated with histological changes characterized by axonal degeneration with relative demyelination. Fourteen weeks after discontinuation of treatment, a significant increment in the SNAP and CMAP amplitudes of both sciatic and tail nerves was noticed. While the CMAP amplitude of the distal segment of the tail showed nonsignificant increment, lesser number of fibers with axonal and/or myelin lesions were found. The clinical, electrophysiological, and histological results suggest that VCR induces peripheral sensorimotor neuropathy of axonal type more prominent in the fixed- than the increasing-dose group. The discontinuation of VCR permitted the improvement of the electrophysiological and histological changes. The rat can be used as an animal model for studying VCR neurotoxicity. However, further studies on larger number of animals are required to evaluate the type of nerve fiber involvement and the site of damage.

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