Nerves could predict aggressiveness of prostate cancer

Nerve density may be able to act as a biomarker to predict the development and spread of prostate tumors, according to new research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

Nerves are commonly found around tumors, but their relationship to cancer previously had been unknown.

To investigate the role that nerves play in prostate cancer, researchers injected human prostate cancer cells into mice and then tried disabling various parts of the sympathetic nervous system, or SNS, and parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS, to observe cells' reactions. The action of the SNS part of the body's nervous system is to mobilize the body's "flight-or-flight" response, while the PNS is in charge of keeping bodily functions in check.

Scientists found that the autonomic nervous system's two branches--SNS and PNS--are both connected to the development and spread of prostate cancer. While the SNS helps initiate the early phases of the disease by promoting tumor growth, the PNS is involved in the spread of cancer in the later stages by making tumor cells invade other tissues and travel to other parts of the body.

To test whether their findings could be applied to prostate cancer in humans, researchers took prostate tissue samples from 43 prostate cancer patients who had not received any treatment and analyzed the nerve fiber densities in tumors.

They found that patients with aggressive forms of prostate cancers had a higher density of nerve fibers within tumors and in normal prostate tissue surrounding their tumors compared with patients who had less aggressive tumors. The findings suggest that nerve density could serve as a possible predictive marker of prostate cancer aggressiveness.

- read the press release

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