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Morphofunctional characterisation of axonal damage in different rat models of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neurotoxicity: The role of nerve excitability testing.

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neurotoxicity (CIPN) is a common and long-lasting adverse event of several anticancer compounds, for which treatment has not yet been developed. To fill this gap, preclinical studies are warranted, exploiting highly translational outcome measure(s) to transfer data from bench to bedside. Nerve excitability testing (NET) enables to test in vivo axonal properties and can be used to monitor early changes leading to axonal damage.

METHODS: We tested NET use in two different CIPN rat models: oxaliplatin (OHP) and paclitaxel (PTX). Animals (female) were chronically treated with either PTX or OHP and compared to respective control animals. NET was performed as soon as the first injection was administered. At the end of the treatment, CIPN onset was verified via a multimodal and robust approach: nerve conduction studies, nerve morphometry, behavioural tests and intraepidermal nerve fibre density.

RESULTS: NET showed the typical pattern of axonal hyperexcitability in the 72 h following the first OHP administration, whereas it showed precocious signs of axonal damage in PTX animals. At the end of the month of treatment, OHP animals showed a pattern compatible with a mild axonal sensory polyneuropathy. Instead, PTX cohort was characterised by a rather severe sensory axonal polyneuropathy with minor signs of motor involvement.

INTERPRETATION: NET after the first administration demonstrated the ongoing OHP-related channelopathy, whereas in PTX cohort it showed precocious signs of axonal damage. Therefore, NET could be suggested as an early surrogate marker in clinical trials, to detect precocious changes leading to axonal damage.

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