Tumor interactions with soluble factors and the nervous system
Institute of Immunology, ZBAF, Witten/Herdecke University, Stockumer Str. 10, 58448 Witten, Germany
Cell Communication and Signaling 2010, 8:21 doi:10.1186/1478-811X-8-21Published: 7 September 2010
In the genomic era of cancer research, the development of metastases has been attributed to mutations in the tumor that enable the cells to migrate. However, gene analyses revealed that primary tumors and metastases were in some cases genetically identical and the question was raised whether metastasis formation might be an inherent feature of certain tumor cells. In contradiction to this view, the last decade of cancer research has brought to light, that tumor cell migration, similar to leukocyte and fibroblast migration, is a highly regulated process. The nervous system plays an important role in this regulation, at least in two respects: firstly, neurotransmitters are known to regulate the migratory activity of tumor cells, and secondly, nerve fibers are used as routes for perineural invasion. We also summarize here the current knowledge on the innervation of tumors. Such a process might establish a neuro-neoplastic synapse, with the close interaction of tumor cells and nerve cells supporting metastasis formation.