Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)


Medical Sciences (Division of Physiology/Pharmacology)


Gurmit Singh




Breast cancers are the most common source of metastases to bone of which cancer-induced bone pain is a frequent pathological feature. Cancer-induced bone pain is a unique pain state with a multiplicity of determinants that remains to be well understood and managed. Current standard treatments are limited by dose-dependent side effects that can depress the quality of life of patients. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter and bone cell-signalling molecule that has been found to be released via the system xC-cystine/glutamate antiporter on cancer cells of types that frequently metastasize to bone, including breast cancers. This project examines the hypothesis that limiting glutamate release from cancer cells metastasized to bone will reduce bone tissue disruption and cancer-induced bone pain. A mouse model of cancer-induced bone pain was established with intrafemoral human breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231), and behavioural measurements were taken for weight bearing and induced paw withdrawal thresholds. The system xC- inhibitors sulfasalazine and (S)-4-carboxyphenylglycine both attenuated glutamate release from cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner in vitro. Treatment with sulfasalazine induced a moderate delay in the onset of behavioural indicators of pain in mouse models, and treatment with (S)-4-carboxyphenylglycine had no apparent results. This data suggests that the limitation of extracellular glutamate released from cancers in bone with sulfasalazine may provide some alleviation of the often severe and intractable pain associated with bone metastases.

McMaster University Library

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