In this paper, in which we tested the expression status of Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls (DNIC) by in vivo spinal cord electrophysiology in a rat model of bone cancer.
The mechanisms that underlie pain resulting from metastatic bone disease remain elusive. This translates to a clinical and socioeconomic burden—targeted therapy is not possible, and patients do not receive adequate analgesic relief. The heterogeneous nature of metastatic bone disease complicates matters. Early stage cancers are molecularly very different to their late stage counterparts and so is the pain associated with early stage and advanced tumours. Thus, analgesic approaches should differ according to disease stage. In this article, we demonstrate that a unique form of brain inhibitory control responsible for the modulation of incoming pain signals at the level of the spinal cord changes with the progression of bone tumours. This corresponds with the degree of damage to the primary afferents innervating the cancerous tissue. Plasticity in the modulation of spinal neuronal activity by descending control pathways reveals a novel opportunity for targeting bone cancer pain in a stage-specific manner.