Some patients with cancer pain are resistant to all conventional analgesics, suggesting that a yet undefined mechanism beyond existing knowledge may contribute to their pathology.
A new study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) School of Medicine (CU Medicine) has found that a new phenomenon, the “transition from macrophages to neuron-like cells” (MNT), generates neurons sensory effects of pain in the microenvironment of the lungs. cancer and leads to cancer pain, representing a precision therapeutic target for primary cancer pain.
MNT is commonly detected in patient samples, including lung, kidney and liver cancers. Importantly, the research team confirmed that MNT in mice can cause and promote pain, revealing its importance in cancer pain.
They further demonstrated that genetic deletion or pharmaceutical inhibition of macrophage Smad3 effectively reduced cancer-associated neurons and pain sensation in mice. The NTM could therefore represent a precision therapeutic target for primary cancer pain.
Chairman of the Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology, Professor To Ka-fai, said, “Cancer pain is still an unresolved clinical problem in patients with advanced cancer. Their intense and intractable pain can directly lead to tragic results. The discovery of NTM may soon end the grief of cancer patients and their families.
image captionResearch team members include (from left) Assistant Professor Patrick Tang Ming-kuen, Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Philip Tang Chiu-tsun and Department Head Professor To Ka-fai , from the Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology.