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Giving Compas' Take:
• As Pacific Standard reports, it appears that new research and studies across many different types of cancer suggest that the presence of neuronal connections in tumors may be detrimental.
• How can funders help cancer patients understand the health risks associated with cancer and avoid or treat them?
Scientists have thoroughly studied the connections between the central nervous system and other systems, because our brain controls pretty much everything in our body: our movements, our emotions, and even our gut. Now, researchers are starting to realize the brain might also control something much more sinister—cancer.
Malignant tumors are groups of abnormal cells that can divide quickly, spread, and ultimately develop into cancer. In 2001, cancer biologists discovered the presence of nerve fibers—the projections that come from neurons—in tumors. Although neurons are typically regarded as harmless or perhaps even beneficial, this turned out not to be true in tumors. It appears that tumors can co-opt the signals neurons produce in order to grow, such as growth factors and neurotransmitters—hinting that neurons and cancer cells together might be a dangerous duo.
Understanding why tumors develop these dangerous neurons in the first place could help identify new forms of treatment. Since the initial observation that cancer severity is associated with nerve fibers, cancer biologists have been searching for the source of tumor-invading fibers and neurons. Finally this spring, a study published in Nature found a very surprising answer.
Read the full article about cancerous tumors by Claudia Lopez at Pacific Standard.