Duration of opiate receptor blockade determines tumorigenic response in mice with neuroblastoma: a role for endogenous opioid systems in cancer

Life Sci. 1984 Jul 23;35(4):409-16. doi: 10.1016/0024-3205(84)90651-9.


The relationship between the pharmacological properties of an opioid antagonist, naltrexone (NTX), and tumor response was studied in mice with transplanted neuroblastoma (NB). Animals receiving 0.1 mg/kg NTX every 6 hr, which blocked morphine-induced analgesia for 24 hr each day, had a 100% tumor incidence, no deviation in time before tumor appearance, and a 17% decrease from control values in total survival time. In contrast, once daily injections of either 0.1 mg/kg NTX or 0.4 mg/kg NTX (the equivalent of 0.1 mg/kg given 4 times daily), which blocked morphine-induced analgesia for less than 10 hr each day, resulted in a tumor incidence of 20% and 60%, respectively, delays in time prior to tumor appearance of 90% and 65%, respectively, and an increased total survival time of 10% and 24%, respectively, for tumor-bearing mice relative to control levels. Inoculation of NB in control animals resulted in 100% tumor appearance within 16 days and a mean survival time of 36 days. These results show that tumorigenic events are dictated by the duration of opiate receptor blockade rather than the dosage of opiate antagonist, and provide compelling evidence that endogenous opioid systems play a crucial role in neuro-oncogenic expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Naloxone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Naltrexone / pharmacology*
  • Neuroblastoma / physiopathology*
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology*


  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Naloxone
  • Naltrexone
  • Morphine