Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Hitting a Nerve
29 August 2013

Hitting a Nerve

Any cancer is cause for concern. But when it starts to extend deadly tentacles away from its starting point, reaching out to other areas of the body, the threat is amplified. So identifying what aids this spread is a key goal for cancer research. The glowing sections of this mouse skeleton are areas being infiltrated by a cancer that started in the mouse’s prostate. Researchers found that the cancer’s travels were being helped by a basic part of the mouse’s body: its nerves. Nerves run like wires throughout our body, feeding electrical messages back and forth to the brain. But it seems that chemicals associated with these wires can fuel tumours, and by harnessing and encouraging nerve growth, cancers can kick-start their own expansive development. That might mean that preventing nerve growth around tumours could clamp them in place, making them easier to treat.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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