Targeting cytokines for treatment of neuropathic pain

Alice L. Hung, Michael Lim, Tina L. Doshi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background Neuropathic pain is a challenging condition often refractory to existing therapies. An increasing number of studies have indicated that the immune system plays a crucial role in the mediation of neuropathic pain. Exploration of the various functions of individual cytokines in neuropathic pain will provide greater insight into the mechanisms of neuropathic pain and suggest potential opportunities to expand the repertoire of treatment options. Methods A literature review was performed to assess the role of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the development of neuropathic pain. Both direct and indirect therapeutic approaches that target various cytokines for pain were reviewed. The current understanding based on preclinical and clinical studies is summarized. Results and conclusions In both human and animal studies, neuropathic pain has been associated with a pro-inflammatory state. Analgesic therapies involving direct manipulation of various cytokines and indirect methods to alter the balance of the immune system have been explored, although there have been few large-scale clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of immune modulators in the treatment of neuropathic pain. TNF-α is perhaps the widely studied pro-inflammatory cytokine in the context of neuropathic pain, but other pro-inflammatory (IL-1β IL-6, and IL-17) and anti-inflammatory (IL-4, IL-10, TGF-β) signaling molecules are garnering increased interest. With better appreciation and understanding of the interaction between the immune system and neuropathic pain, novel therapies may be developed to target this condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalScandinavian Journal of Pain
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Cytokines
  • Immune modulation
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Pro-inflammatory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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