Cancer and nerves: A tuf(t) partnership

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Science  13 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6321, pp. 144-145
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6321.144-d

Stomach tumor growth is accompanied by an expansion of surrounding nerves. Whether and how these two events are functionally related has been unclear. Studying mouse models, Hayakawa et al. showed that a molecular conversation occurs between nerves and the epithelial cells that give rise to cancer. This cross-talk relies in part on tuft cells, a mysterious cell type in the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Tuft cells and nerves produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which stimulates expression of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the gastric epithelium. NGF in turn acts to promote neuronal expansion and aberrant growth of gastric epithelial cells, which ultimately leads to cancer. Drugs that block NGF signaling inhibited gastric tumor growth in mice.

Cancer Cell 10.1016/j.ccell.2016.11.005 (2017).

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