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Biomarkers of Chronic Pain: Precision Measurement and Application

WRITTEN BY Hiteshi Patel


According to the CDC, 1 in 5 patients suffer from some type of chronic pain. Thus, chronic pain is a condition many patients combat on a daily basis, given that there is no general cure for the pain. While there are coping options that patients can pursue in an attempt to alleviate the pain, it will never fully go away. Hence, researchers are now attempting to understand how chronic pain affects the human body at a cellular level in order to eventually create a lasting solution.

This is done by identifying biomarkers in various biological features such as, most recently, in blood. The identification of common biomarkers was completed through a stepwise discovery process: prioritization, validation, and testing. In the prioritization stage, a powerful longitudinal design within patients suffering from various psychological disorders was utilized to prioritize candidate biomarkers and characterize the relationship between perceived and biological pain. Next, the top biomarkers were validated in patients actually diagnosed with pain disorders in an independent subject cohort. Following various clinical testing, the biological pathways of each biomarker were identified along with correlations with existing drugs. From this, it was found that “GNG7, CNTN1, LY9, CCDC144B, and GBP1” (Niculescu 501) were the main biomarkers involved with pain. Furthermore, these biomarkers can now be used as key components of assays in pain drug discovery. 

As one of the main groups who suffer from chronic pain is cancer patients, researchers are focusing on the biomarkers specific to cancer patients as pain indicators.  Since many cancers are based on genetic variants, genetic biomarkers were the focus of a study that explored pain pathways in cancer patients. This study found that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are a common stable biomarkers in pain risk. As they change the genetic sequence of a gene’s protein, they are also likely to interact with cancers and affect their pain levels. Hence, this opens a future for further investigation and potential drug development. 

In an attempt to utilize this information for good, a company based in Indianapolis called MindX Sciences strives to quantify pain levels through digital qualitative patient interviews and blood tests. This is especially important since it is difficult for physicians to analyze pain levels in patients who suffer from diseases that prevent them from accurately conveying their pain. This company will use the research of indicators and hopefully apply it to accurately gauge pain levels. 

Overall, pain research is one of the main focuses for bio researchers today, given the difficulty physicians have in measuring it. It is extremely likely more advances in pain research will be seen in the future. 


Niculescu, A. B., Le-Niculescu, H., Levey, D. F., Roseberry, K., Soe, K. C., Rogers, J., … White, F. A. (2019). Towards precision medicine for pain: diagnostic biomarkers and repurposed drugs. Molecular Psychiatry, 24(4), 501–522. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0345-5

staff, S. X. (2019, July 2). MEDx, Startup enabling precision medicine for mental health, pain. 

Yang, G. S., Barnes, N. M., Lyon, D. E., & Dorsey, S. G. (2019). Genetic Variants Associated with Cancer Pain and Response to Opioid Analgesics: Implications for Precision Pain Management. Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 35(3), 291–299. doi: 10.1016/j.soncn.2019.04.011

Yang, Y., Mis, M. A., Estacion, M., Dib-Hajj, S. D., & Waxman, S. G. (2018). Na V 1.7 as Pharmacogenomic Target for Pain: Moving Toward Precision Medicine. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 39(3), 258–275. doi: 10.1016/


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