Re-expression of the methylated EDNRB gene in oral squamous cell carcinoma attenuates cancer-induced pain

Pain. 2011 Oct;152(10):2323-32. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2011.06.025. Epub 2011 Jul 22.


Endothelin-1 is a vasoactive peptide that activates both the endothelin A (ET(A)) and endothelin B (ET(B)) receptors, and is secreted in high concentrations in many different cancer environments. Although ET(A) receptor activation has an established nociceptive effect in cancer models, the role of ET(B) receptors on cancer pain is controversial. EDNRB, the gene encoding the ET(B) receptor, has been shown to be hypermethylated and transcriptionally silenced in many different cancers. In this study we demonstrate that EDNRB is heavily methylated in human oral squamous cell carcinoma lesions, which are painful, but not methylated in human oral dysplasia lesions, which are typically not painful. ET(B) mRNA expression is reduced in the human oral squamous cell carcinoma lesions as a consequence of EDNRB hypermethylation. Using a mouse cancer pain model, we show that ET(B) receptor re-expression attenuates cancer-induced pain. These findings identify EDNRB methylation as a novel regulatory mechanism in cancer-induced pain and suggest that demethylation therapy targeted at the cancer microenvironment has the potential to thwart pain-producing mechanisms at the source, thus freeing patients of systemic analgesic toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Facial Pain / etiology*
  • Facial Pain / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / therapy*
  • RNA, Messenger / antagonists & inhibitors
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Receptor, Endothelin B / genetics*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Endothelin B