Bortezomib is a mainstay of therapy for multiple myeloma, frequently complicated by painful neuropathy. The objective of this study was to describe clinical, electrophysiological, and pathological changes of bortezomib-induced peripheral neuropathy (BiPN) in detail and to correlate pathological changes with pain descriptors. Clinical data, nerve conduction studies, and lower leg skin biopsies were collected from 22 BiPN patients. Skin sections were immunostained using anti-protein gene product 9.5 (PGP9.5) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) antibodies. Cumulative bortezomib dose and clinical assessment scales indicated light-moderate sensory neuropathy. Pain intensity >4 (numerical rating scale) was present in 77% of the patients. Median pain intensity and overall McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) sum scores indicated moderate to severe neuropathic pain. Sural nerve sensory nerve action potentials were abnormal in 86%, while intraepidermal nerve fiber densities of PGP9.5 and CGRP were not significantly different from healthy controls. However, subepidermal nerve fiber density (SENFD) of PGP9.5 was significantly decreased and the axonal swelling ratio, a predictor of neuropathy, and upper dermis nerve fiber density (UDNFD) of PGP9.5, presumably representing sprouting of parasympathetic fibers, were significantly increased in BiPN patients. Finally, significant correlations between UDNFD of PGP9.5 versus the evaluative Pain Rating Index (PRI) and number of words count (NWC) of the MPQ, and significant inverse correlations between SENFD/UDNFD of CGRP versus the sensory-discriminative MPQ PRI/NWC were found. BiPN is a sensory neuropathy, in which neuropathic pain is the most striking clinical finding. Bortezomib-induced neuropathic pain may be driven by sprouting of parasympathetic fibers in the upper dermis and impaired regeneration of CGRP fibers in the subepidermal layer.
- Journal Article