Preventive action of benztropine on platinum-induced peripheral neuropathies and tumor growth

Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2019 Jan 18;7(1):9. doi: 10.1186/s40478-019-0657-y.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Benztropine / administration & dosage*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / chemically induced
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / prevention & control
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ganglia, Spinal / drug effects
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiopathology
  • Hyperalgesia / chemically induced
  • Hyperalgesia / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Oxaliplatin / administration & dosage*
  • Oxaliplatin / adverse effects
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Sciatic Nerve / drug effects
  • Sciatic Nerve / physiopathology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / drug effects
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Benztropine