Many cancerous solid tumors metastasize to the bone and induce pain (cancer-induced bone pain [CIBP]). Cancer-induced bone pain is often severe because of enhanced inflammation, rapid bone degradation, and disease progression. Opioids are prescribed to manage this pain, but they may enhance bone loss and increase tumor proliferation, further compromising patient quality of life. Angiotensin-(1-7) (Ang-(1-7)) binds and activates the Mas receptor (MasR). Angiotensin-(1-7)/MasR activation modulates inflammatory signaling after acute tissue insult, yet no studies have investigated whether Ang-(1-7)/MasR play a role in CIBP. We hypothesized that Ang-(1-7) inhibits CIBP by targeting MasR in a murine model of breast CIBP. 66.1 breast cancer cells were implanted into the femur of BALB/cAnNHsd mice as a model of CIBP. Spontaneous and evoked pain behaviors were assessed before and after acute and chronic administration of Ang-(1-7). Tissues were collected from animals for ex vivo analyses of MasR expression, tumor burden, and bone integrity. Cancer inoculation increased spontaneous pain behaviors by day 7 that were significantly reduced after a single injection of Ang-(1-7) and after sustained administration. Preadministration of A-779 a selective MasR antagonist prevented this reduction, whereas pretreatment with the AT2 antagonist had no effect; an AT1 antagonist enhanced the antinociceptive activity of Ang-(1-7) in CIBP. Repeated Ang-(1-7) administration did not significantly change tumor burden or bone remodeling. Data here suggest that Ang-(1-7)/MasR activation significantly attenuates CIBP, while lacking many side effects seen with opioids. Thus, Ang-(1-7) may be an alternative therapeutic strategy for the nearly 90% of patients with advanced-stage cancer who experience excruciating pain.
Prolonged morphine treatment increases pain sensitivity in many patients. Enhanced spinal Substance P release is one of the adaptive changes associated with sustained opioid exposure. In addition to pain transmitting second order neurons, spinal microglia and astrocytes also express functionally active Tachykinin NK₁ (Substance P) receptors. In the present work we investigated the role of glial Tachykinin NK₁ receptors in morphine withdrawal-mediated spinal microglia and astrocyte activation. Our data indicate that intrathecal co-administration (6 days, twice daily) of a selective Tachykinin NK₁ receptor antagonist (N-acetyl-L-tryptophan 3,5-bis(trifluoromethyl)benzylester (L-732,138; 20 μg/injection)) attenuates spinal microglia and astrocyte marker and pro-inflammatory mediator immunoreactivity as well as hyperalgesia in withdrawn rats. Furthermore, covalent linkage of the opioid agonist with a Tachykinin NK₁ antagonist pharmacophore yielded a bivalent compound that did not augment spinal microglia or astrocyte marker or pro-inflammatory mediator immunoreactivity and did not cause paradoxical pain sensitization upon drug withdrawal. Thus, bivalent opioid/Tachykinin NK₁ receptor antagonists may provide a novel paradigm for long-term pain management.
N-Phenyl-N-(piperidin-2-ylmethyl)propionamide based bivalent ligands are unexplored for the design of opioid based ligands. Two series of hybrid molecules bearing N-phenyl-N-(piperidin-2-ylmethyl)propionamide derived small molecules conjugated with an enkephalin analogues with and without a linker (β-alanine) were designed and synthesized. Both bivalent ligand series exhibited remarkable binding affinities from nanomolar to subnanomolar range at both μ and δ opioid receptors and displayed potent agonist activities as well. The replacement of Tyr with Dmt and introduction of a linker between the small molecule and enkephalin analogue resulted in highly potent ligands. Both series of ligands showed excellent binding affinities at both μ (0.6-0.9nM) and δ (0.2-1.2nM) opioid receptors respectively. Similarly, these bivalent ligands exhibited potent agonist activities in both MVD and GPI assays. Ligand 17 was evaluated for in vivo antinociceptive activity in non-injured rats following spinal administration. Ligand 17 was not significantly effective in alleviating acute pain. The most likely explanations for this low intrinsic efficacy in vivo despite high in vitro binding affinity, moderate in vitro activity are (i) low potency suggesting that higher doses are needed; (ii) differences in experimental design (i.e. non-neuronal, high receptor density for in vitro preparations versus CNS site of action in vitro); (iii) pharmacodynamics (i.e. engaging signalling pathways); (iv) pharmacokinetics (i.e. metabolic stability). In summary, our data suggest that further optimisation of this compound 17 is required to enhance intrinsic antinociceptive efficacy.