Background: External beam radiotherapy (EBRT) is a mainstay for treatment of painful bone metastases. Transient worsening of pain (“pain flare”) occurs in 40% of patients. We investigated the pathophysiology of pain flare through assessment of changes in urinary cytokines/chemokines in patients receiving EBRT for painful bone metastases.
Methods: Urine samples were collected from patients receiving a single 8 Gy fraction for painful bone metastases preparation, day 1 or 2 and on an additional day between days 3 to 5 post radiation. Patients completed a standardized pain and analgesic use diary daily for 10 days following radiation. Patients were deemed to have pain flare if they had a two-point increase from baseline worst pain on 0–10 scale and no decrease in analgesic intake or a 25% increase in analgesic intake with no decrease in worst pain. The Millipore Milliplex 42-Plex Cyto-kine/Chemokine Kit™ was used to measure urinary levels of a panel of cytokines/chemokines.
Results: Forty-six patients consented to the study of which 28 were evaluable (complete urine and diary data), and 83/84 urine samples were available for analysis. Pain flare was experienced by 11 patients (39%). The following cytokines/chemokines were detectable in at least 50% of the patients: EGF, fractalkine, GRO, IL-4, IL-8, interferon gamma induced protein 10 (IP-10), MCP-1, macrophage derived chemokine (MDC), PDGF-AA, sIL-2Ra, TGF-Alpha, VEGF. Comparing patients with or without pain flare EGF, fractalkine, GRO, IL-8, IP-10, MCP-1, MDC, sIL-2Ra, and TGF-alpha increased following radiation in both groups. Patients with pain flare have significant lower levels on IL-8, IP-10, and MDC over time. No specific time trend was noticed.
Conclusions: Patients who experience pain flare appear to have a different pattern in urinary cytokine/chemokine levels than patients without pain flare. A larger study is required to confirm the possible role of cytokines/chemokines in predisposition to and/or the cause of pain flare following radiation to painful bone metastases.