Nerve growth factor: an update on the science and therapy

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Sep;21(9):1223-8. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2013.06.004.


Objective: Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a key regulator of nociceptive pain and thus appears to be an interesting target molecule for an innovative class of analgesic medication. We set out to review the principles of neurogenic inflammation and results of anti-NGF regimens in animal studies as well as clinical trials with patients with back pain and osteoarthritis (OA).

Design: We searched using Google Scholar Search and Pubmed as well as through conference reports for articles and abstracts related to NGF and clinical trials using anti-NGF regimens. We report on efficacy findings and adverse events (AEs) related to these agents in this review.

Results: We identified five full articles and eight abstract reports relating to anti-NGF agents studied for use in back pain and in OA.

Conclusions: Anti-NGF agents either alone or in combination with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) were more efficacious for the treatment of pain in a number of trials of knee and hip pain compared to NSAIDs alone. However, adverse effects that included rapidly progressive OA and joint replacement were more common in patients treated with anti-NGF and NSAIDs than either treatment alone. Anti-NGF treatment related neurologic symptoms including paresthesias, and potentially other types of adverse effects were usually transient but warrant additional investigation.

Keywords: Nerve growth factor; Neurogenic inflammation; Osteoarthitis; Receptor antagonists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / administration & dosage*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects
  • Back Pain / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Growth Factor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Neuritis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • tanezumab