Schwannomatosis is a multiple tumor syndrome in which patients develop benign tumors along peripheral nerves throughout the body. The first symptom with which schwannomatosis patients often present, prior to discovery of tumors, is pain. This pain can be debilitating and is often inadequately alleviated by pharmacological approaches. Schwannomatosis-associated pain can be localized to the area of a tumor, or widespread. Moreover, not all tumors are painful, and the occurrence of pain is often unrelated to tumor size or location. We speculate that some individual tumors, but not others, secrete factors that act on nearby nerves to augment nociception by producing neuronal sensitization or spontaneous neuronal firing. We created cell lines from human SWN tumors with varying degrees of pain. We have found that conditioned medium (CM) collected from painful SWN tumors, but not that from nonpainful SWN tumors, sensitized DRG neurons, causing increased sensitivity to depolarization by KCl, increased response to noxious TRPV1 and TRPA1 agonists and also upregulated the expression of pain-associated genes in DRG cultures. Multiple cytokines were also detected at higher levels in CM from painful tumors. Taken together our data demonstrate a differential ability of painful versus non-painful human schwannomatosis tumor cells to secrete factors that augment sensory neuron responsiveness, and thus identify a potential determinant of pain heterogeneity in schwannomatosis.
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