Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a common side effect of cancer treatment. No medication has been shown to be effective in the treatment of CIPN. This study aims to integrate the image-based high-content screening, mouse behavior models and mechanistic cell-based assays to discover potential neuroprotective drugs. Among screened compounds, minoxidil showed the most potent neuroprotective effect against paclitaxel, with regard to neurite outgrowth of dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Minoxidil protected mice from thermal insensitivity and alleviated mechanical allodynia in paclitaxel-treated mice. The ultrastructure and quantified G-ratio of myelin integrity of sciatic nerve tissues supported the observations in mouse behavioral tests. The mechanistic study on DRG neurons suggested that minoxidil suppressed neuroinflammation and remodeled the dysregulation of intracellular calcium homeostasis provoked by paclitaxel. Importantly, minoxidil showed a synergistic anti-tumor effect with paclitaxel both in tumor xenograft models of cervical and breast cancer. Interestingly, the quantitative assays on hair length and hair growth both exhibited that minoxidil significantly improved the hair quality after chemotherapy. Since minoxidil is a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the safety and biocompatibility are well documented. The immediate next step is to launch an early-stage clinical trial intending to prevent CIPN by minoxidil.
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