Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

Dr. Imad Damaj


Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN) is a major dose-limiting side effect of several anticancer drugs. The prevalence of CIPN ranges from one-third to two-thirds of cancer patients. CIPN can persist for months to years after completion of chemotherapy. Despite the efficacious use of paclitaxel in the treatment of tumors, it can induce many sensory symptoms, such as paresthesia, numbness, tingling and burning pain, and mechanical and cold allodynia, which typically are present in the hands and feet. Similar to other types of chronic pain, paclitaxel-induced CIPN is comorbid with depression and anxiety in cancer survivors, and paclitaxel induces changes in affect-like behavior in cancer-free animal models, suggesting that paclitaxel can cause long-lasting changes in mood, reducing the quality of life. While adjuvant therapies, such as duloxetine, tricyclic antidepressants, and gabapentin are prescribed to treat CIPN symptoms, none of these compounds can consistently reverse or prevent the development of CIPN. With no FDA-approved medication to treat CIPN, the purpose of the dissertation was to: i) characterize and develop a mouse model of paclitaxel-induced CIPN, ii) identify putative targets for CIPN treatment, and iii) test novel compounds for their ability to prevent and reverse CIPN in C57BL/6J mice. In the first Aim, we demonstrate that paclitaxel induces time- and dose-dependent hypersensitivity (mechanical and cold), which is potentiated by combination therapy with the chemotherapeutic carboplatin. In addition, paclitaxel-treated mice show changes in affect-like behaviors (anxiety-like, depression-like). In the second Aim, we used the prototypic nicotinic receptor (nAChR) agonist nicotine to reverse or prevent paclitaxel-induced mechanical hypersensitivity and degeneration of Intra-Epidermal Nerve Fibers (IENFs). Further, we discovered that nicotine’s antinociceptive effects in this mouse model of CIPN are mediated by the nicotinic receptor subtype α7. The third Aim used genetic and pharmacological approaches to dissect the role of α7 on the development and maintenance of paclitaxel-induced CIPN. Null mutant α7 mice (KO) hastens the onset, increases the magnitude, and delays the recovery of paclitaxel-induced mechanical hypersensitivity, as compared to littermate wildtype controls, whereas the selective α7 silent agonist R-47 to reverses and prevents paclitaxel-induced CIPN in C57BL/6J mice. We also examined the impact of R-47 on the paclitaxel-induced reduction of intraepidermal nerve fiber (IENF), as well as microglial morphology in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. The data show that R-47 prevents paclitaxel-induced changes in microglial morphology and mechanical hypersensitivity behavior, without producing tolerance upon repeated administration. Finally, R-47 induces preference using the conditioned place test in paclitaxel-treated mice but vehicle-treated animals, suggesting that R-47 is a viable candidate for ongoing, spontaneous pain, with limited risk of abuse potential. Overall, these results support that the α7 nAChR subtype is an important target for the treatment and prevention of CIPN.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission