Alterations in dorsal horn neurones in a rat model of cancer-induced bone pain.
Cancer-induced bone pain is a major clinical problem. A rat model based on intra-tibial injection of MRMT-1 mammary tumour cells was used to mimic progressive cancer-induced bone pain. At the time of stable behavioural changes (decreased thresholds to mechanical and cold stimuli) and bone destruction, in vivo electrophysiology was used to characterize natural (mechanical, thermal, and cold) and electrical-evoked responses of superficial and deep dorsal horn neurones in halothane-anaesthetized rats. Receptive field size was significantly enlarged for superficial neurones in the MRMT-1 animals. Superficial cells were characterised as either nociceptive specific (NS) or wide dynamic range (WDR). The ratio of WDR to NS cells was substantially different between sham operated (growth media alone) (26:74%) and MRMT-1 injected rats (47:53%). NS cells showed no significant difference in their neuronal responses in MRMT-1-injected compared to sham rats. However, superficial WDR neurones in MRMT-1-injected rats had significantly increased responses to mechanical, thermal and electrical (A beta-, C fibre-, and post-discharge evoked response) stimuli. Deep WDR neurones showed less pronounced changes to the superficial dorsal horn, however, the response to thermal and electrical stimuli, but not mechanical, were significantly increased in the MRMT-1-injected rats. In conclusion, the spinal cord is significantly hyperexcitable with previously superficial NS cells becoming responsive to wide-dynamic range stimuli possibly driving this plasticity via ascending and descending facilitatory pathways. The alterations in superficial dorsal horn neurones have not been reported in neuropathy or inflammation adding to the evidence for cancer-induced bone pain reflecting a unique pain state.