Mini-Review: Mitochondrial dysfunction and chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain

Neurosci Lett. 2021 Aug 24:760:136087. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2021.136087. Epub 2021 Jun 26.


Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a somatosensory axonopathy in cancer patients receiving any of a variety of widely-use antitumor agents. CIPN can lead to long-lasting neuropathic pain that limits the dose or length of otherwise life-saving cancer therapy. Accumulating evidence over the last two decades indicates that many chemotherapeutic agents cause mitochondrial injury in the peripheral sensory nerves by disrupting mitochondrial structure and bioenergetics, increasing nitro-oxidative stress and altering mitochondrial transport, fission, fusion and mitophagy. The accumulation of abnormal and dysfunctional mitochondria in sensory neurons are linked to axonal growth defects resulting in the loss of intraepidermal nerve fibers in the hands and feet, increased spontaneous discharge and the sensitization of peripheral sensory neurons that provoke and promote changes in the central nervous system that establish a chronic neuropathic pain state. This has led to the propose mitotoxicity theory of CIPN. Strategies that improve mitochondrial function have shown success in preventing and reversing CIPN in pre-clinical animal models and have begun to show some progress toward translation to the clinic. In this review, we will review the evidence for, the causes and effects of and current strategies to target mitochondrial dysfunction in CIPN.

Keywords: Bioenergetics; Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy; Mitochondrial dysfunction; Mitochondrial transport; Neuropathic pain; Nitro-oxidative stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Axons / drug effects
  • Axons / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neuralgia / chemically induced*
  • Neuralgia / pathology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / cytology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / drug effects*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / pathology


  • Antineoplastic Agents