Open Access

Effect of the autonomic nervous system on cancer progression depends on the type of tumor: solid are more affected then ascitic tumors


Objectives. A number of recently published studies have shown that the sympathetic nervous system may influence cancer progression. There are, however, some ambiguities about the role of the parasympathetic nerves in the modulation of growth of different tumor types. Moreover, tumor models used for investigation of the autonomic neurotransmission role in the processes related to the cancer growth and progression are mainly of the solid nature. The knowledge about the nervous system involvement in the modulation of the development and progression of malignant ascites is only fragmental. Therefore, the aim of the present article was to summarize the results of our experimental studies focused on the elucidation of the role of the autonomic nervous system in the modulation of tumor growth in animals. We are summarizing data from studies, in which not only different experimental approaches in order to influence the autonomic neurotransmission, but also different tumor models have been used.

Methods. Three different types of tumor models, namely solid rat intra-abdominal fibrosarcoma, solid murine subcutaneous melanoma, and rat ascites hepatoma, and three types of interventions have been used in order to modulate the autonomic neurotransmission, specifically chemical sympathectomy, subdiaphragmatic vagotomy, or the electric stimulation of the vagus nerve.

Results. We have proved a strong stimulatory effect of the sympathetic nerves on the development and growth in both solid tumors, rat fibrosarcoma as well as murine melanoma, and significant inhibitory impact on the survival time of tumor-bearing animals. The progression of ascites hepatoma in rats was not influenced by chemical sympathectomy. Modulation of parasympathetic signalization by vagotomy or vagal nerve stimulation does not affect fibrosarcoma and ascites hepatoma growth and survival of the tumor-bearing rats.

Conclusions. Based on the obtained data, it seems that the solid types of tumors are suitable substrate for the direct action of neurotransmitters released especially from the sympathetic nerves. In contrast, it appears that the malignant ascites are not under the direct autonomic nerves control; however, an indirect action via the immune functions modulation cannot be excluded.