Analgesic Effects of Topical Amitriptyline in Patients With Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy: Mechanistic Insights From Studies in Mice


  • Genevois Anne-Laure
  • Ruel Jérôme
  • Penalba Virginie
  • Hatton Séverine
  • Petitfils Camille
  • Ducrocq Myriam
  • Principe Paola
  • Dietrich Gilles
  • Greco Céline
  • Delmas Patrick


  • Amitriptyline
  • Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Analgesics
  • Topical adminis-tration
  • Voltage-gated sodium channels
  • Nociceptive sensory neurons
  • Transient receptor potentialankyrin 1
  • Nociceptors

document type



Oral amitriptyline hydrochloride (amitriptyline) is ineffective against some forms of chronic pain and is often associated with dose-limiting adverse events. We evaluated the potential effectiveness of high-dose topical amitriptyline in a preliminary case series of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy patients and investigated whether local or systemic adverse events associated with the use of amitriptyline were present in these patients. We also investigated the mechanism of action of topically administered amitriptyline in mice. Our case series suggested that topical 10% amitriptyline treatment was associated with pain relief in chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy patients, without the side effects associated with systemic absorption. Topical amitriptyline significantly increased mechanical withdrawal thresholds when applied to the hind paw of mice, and inhibited the firing responses of C-, Aβ- and Aδ-type peripheral nerve fibers in ex vivo skin-saphenous nerve preparations. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings on cultured sensory neurons revealed that amitriptyline was a potent inhibitor of the main voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav1.7, Nav1.8, and Nav1.9) found in nociceptors. Calcium imaging showed that amitriptyline activated the transient receptor potential cation channel, TRPA1. Our case series indicated that high-dose 10% topical amitriptyline could alleviate neuropathic pain without adverse local or systemic effects. This analgesic action appeared to be mediated through local inhibition of voltage-gated sodium channels. Perspective: Our preliminary case series suggested that topical amitriptyline could provide effective pain relief for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy patients without any systemic or local adverse events. Investigation of the mechanism of this analgesic action in mice revealed that this activity was mediated through local inhibition of nociceptor Nav channels.

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