Pharmacological Treatment of Neuropathic Cancer Pain: A Comprehensive Review of the Current Literature


  • Disclosure: This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. Dr Athina Vadalouca has been a consultant for, has received honoraria from, and has conducted clinical research supported by the following: Pfizer Inc., and Prostrakan. Dr Efklidis Raptis used to be a Scientific Associate of the Pain Relief and Palliative Care Center of Aretaieion Hospital and is currently employed in Pfizer Hellas.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Athina Vadalouca, MD, PhD, FIPP, Associate Professor of Anaesthesiology, 1st Anaesthesiology Clinic, Pain Relief and Palliative Care Unit, Aretaieion University Hospital, University of Athens, Lefkon Oreon Street, PC 15344, Gerakas, Greece. E-mail:


Abstract:  Neuropathic cancer pain (NCP), commonly encountered in clinical practice, may be cancer-related, namely resulting from nervous system tumor invasion, surgical nerve damage during tumor removal, radiation-induced nerve damage and chemotherapy-related neuropathy, or may be of benign origin, unrelated to cancer. A neuropathic component is evident in about 1/3 of cancer pain cases. Although from a pathophysiological perspective NCP may differ from chronic neuropathic pain (NP), such as noncancer-related pain, clinical practice, and limited publications have shown that these two pain entities may share some treatment modalities. For example, co-analgesics have been well integrated into cancer pain-management strategies and are often used as First-Line options for the treatment of NCP. These drugs, including antidepressants and anticonvulsants, are recommended by evidence-based guidelines, whereas, others such as lidocaine patch 5%, are supported by randomized, controlled, clinical data and are included in guidelines for restricted conditions treatment. The vast majority of these drugs have already been proven useful in the management of benign NP syndromes. Treatment decisions for patients with NP can be difficult. The intrinsic difficulties in performing randomized controlled trials in cancer pain have traditionally justified the acceptance of drugs already known to be effective in benign NP for the management of malignant NP, despite the lack of relevant high quality data. Interest in NCP mechanisms and pharmacotherapy has increased, resulting in significant mechanism-based treatment advances for the future. In this comprehensive review, we present the latest knowledge regarding NCP pharmacological management.