The endogenous cholinergic system plays a key role in neuronal cells, by suppressing neurite outgrowth and myelination and, in some cancer cells, favoring tumor growth. Platinum compounds are widely used as part of first line conventional cancer chemotherapy; their efficacy is however limited by peripheral neuropathy as a major side-effect. In a multiple sclerosis mouse model, benztropine, that also acts as an anti-histamine and a dopamine re-uptake inhibitor, induced the differentiation of oligodendrocytes through M1 and M3 muscarinic receptors and enhanced re-myelination. We have evaluated whether benztropine can increase anti-tumoral efficacy of oxaliplatin, while preventing its neurotoxicity.We showed that benztropine improves acute and chronic clinical symptoms of oxaliplatin-induced peripheral neuropathies in mice. Sensory alterations detected by electrophysiology in oxaliplatin-treated mice were consistent with a decreased nerve conduction velocity and membrane hyperexcitability due to alterations in the density and/or functioning of both sodium and potassium channels, confirmed by action potential analysis from ex-vivo cultures of mouse dorsal root ganglion sensory neurons using whole-cell patch-clamp. These alterations were all prevented by benztropine. In oxaliplatin-treated mice, MBP expression, confocal and electronic microscopy of the sciatic nerves revealed a demyelination and confirmed the alteration of the myelinated axons morphology when compared to animals injected with oxaliplatin plus benztropine. Benztropine also prevented the decrease in neuronal density in the paws of mice injected with oxaliplatin. The neuroprotection conferred by benztropine against chemotherapeutic drugs was associated with a lower expression of inflammatory cytokines and extended to diabetic-induced peripheral neuropathy in mice.Mice receiving benztropine alone presented a lower tumor growth when compared to untreated animals and synergized the anti-tumoral effect of oxaliplatin, a phenomenon explained at least in part by benztropine-induced ROS imbalance in tumor cells.This report shows that blocking muscarinic receptors with benztropine prevents peripheral neuropathies and increases the therapeutic index of oxaliplatin. These results can be rapidly transposable to patients as benztropine is currently indicated in Parkinson's disease in the United States.
Keywords: Benztropine; Muscarinic receptors; Myelin; Oxaliplatin; Peripheral neuropathies.