In the majority of patients with breast cancer in the advanced stages, skeletal metastases are common, which may cause excruciating pain. Currently available drug treatments for relief of breast cancer-induced bone pain (BCIBP) include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and strong opioid analgesics along with inhibitors of osteoclast activity such as bisphosphonates and monoclonal antibodies such as denosumab. However, these medications often lack efficacy and/or they may produce serious dose-limiting side effects. In the present study, we show that J-2156, a somatostatin receptor type 4 (SST4 receptor) selective agonist, reverses pain-like behaviors in a rat model of BCIBP induced by unilateral intra-tibial injection of Walker 256 breast cancer cells. Following intraperitoneal administration, the ED50 of J-2156 for the relief of mechanical allodynia and mechanical hyperalgesia in the ipsilateral hindpaws was 3.7 and 8.0 mg/kg, respectively. Importantly, the vast majority of somatosensory neurons in the dorsal root ganglia including small diameter C-fibers and medium-large diameter fibers, that play a crucial role in cancer pain hypersensitivities, expressed the SST4 receptor. J-2156 mediated pain relief in BCIBP-rats was confirmed by observations of a reduction in the levels of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (pERK), a protein essential for central sensitization and persistent pain, in the spinal dorsal horn. Our results demonstrate the potential of the SST4 receptor as a pharmacological target for relief of BCIBP and we anticipate the present work to be a starting point for further mechanism-based studies.
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