Background The opioid growth factor (OGF)-OGF receptor (OGFr) axis is a constitutively expressed biologic pathway regulating cell proliferation of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). This study investigated modulation of the OGF-OGFr system by (1) exogenous OGF, (2) upregulation of OGFr using imiquimod, or (3) intermittent opioid receptor blockade with a low dose of naltrexone on progression of established SCCHN. Methods Nude mice with visible human SCCHN SCC-1 tumors received (1) OGF or low-dose naltrexone either 1, 3, or 7 times/week or (2) imiquimod 1 or 3 times/week. Tumor growth and DNA synthesis were monitored. Results OGF and low-dose naltrexone increased the latency from visible to measurable tumors up to 1.6-fold. OGF, low-dose naltrexone, and imiquimod treatment markedly reduced tumor volume and weight, and decreased DNA synthesis in tumors. Conclusions Modulation of the native OGF-OGFr regulatory network in SCCHN represents a novel nontoxic and highly efficacious approach for treatment of SCCHN.
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