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Toxicol Sci. 2017 Mar 1;156(1):275-288. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfw254.

Editor's Highlight: Multiparametric Image Analysis of Rat Dorsal Root Ganglion Cultures to Evaluate Peripheral Neuropathy-Inducing Chemotherapeutics.

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Laboratory of Investigative Toxicology, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., Frederick, Maryland 21702.
Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a major, dose-limiting adverse effect experienced by cancer patients. Advancements in mechanism-based risk mitigation and effective treatments for CIPN can be aided by suitable in vitro assays. To this end, we developed a multiparametric morphology-centered rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) assay. Morphologic alterations in subcellular structures of neurons and non-neurons were analyzed with an automated microscopy system. Stains for NeuN (a neuron-specific nuclear protein) and Tuj-1 (β-III tubulin) were used to identify neuronal cell nuclei and neuronal cell bodies/neurites, respectively. Vimentin staining (a component of Schwann cell intermediate filaments) was used to label non-neuronal supporting cells. Nuclei that stained with DAPI, but lacked NeuN represented non-neuronal cells. Images were analyzed following 24 h of continuous exposure to CIPN-inducing agents and 72 h after drug removal to provide a dynamic measure of recovery from initial drug effects. Treatment with bortezomib, cisplatin, eribulin, paclitaxel or vincristine induced a dose-dependent loss of neurite/process areas, mimicking the 'dying back' degeneration of axons, a histopathological hallmark of clinical CIPN in vivo. The IC50 for neurite loss was within 3-fold of the maximal clinical exposure (Cmax) for all five CIPN-inducing drugs, but was >4- or ≥ 28-fold of the Cmax for 2 non-CIPN-inducing agents. Compound-specific effects, eg, neurite fragmentation by cisplatin or bortezomib and enlarged neuronal cell bodies by paclitaxel, were also observed. Collectively, these results support the use of a quantitative, morphologic evaluation and a DRG cell culture model to inform risk and examine mechanisms of CIPN.


automated image analysis; early safety evaluation.; chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN); high content analysis (HCA); rat dorsal root ganglion cells (DRGs)

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