Editors' ChoiceCancer

Cancer Hits a Nerve

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Science Signaling  16 Jul 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 284, pp. ec161
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004507

Solid tumors sculpt their microenvironment to maximize their growth and metastatic potential. This concept is illustrated most famously by tumor angiogenesis, a process whereby tumors induce the growth of new blood vessels to boost their supply of oxygen and blood-borne nutrients. Magnon et al. (see the Perspective by Isaacs) now highlight the important contribution made by another microenvironmental component—developing autonomic nerve fibers—to tumor growth and metastasis. In mouse models of prostate cancer, surgical or chemical destruction of sympathetic nerves prevented early-stage growth of tumors, whereas pharmacological inhibition of parasympathetic nerves inhibited tumor dissemination. In a small study of human prostate cancer specimens, the presence of a high density of nerve fibers in and around the tumor tissue was found to correlate with poor clinical outcome. These results raise the possibility that drugs targeting the autonomic nervous system may have therapeutic potential for prostate cancer.

C. Magnon, S. J. Hall, J. Lin, X. Xue, L. Gerber, S. J. Freedland, P. S. Frenette, Autonomic nerve development contributes to prostate cancer progression. Science 341, 1236361 (2013). [Abstract] [Full Text]

J. T. Isaacs, Prostate cancer takes nerve. Science 341, 134–135 (2013). [Summary] [Full Text]