Uneingeschränkter Zugang

The relationship between the tumor and its innervation: historical, methodical, morphological, and functional assessments – A minireview


The acceptance of the tumor as a non-isolated structure within the organism has opened a space for the study of a wide spectrum of potential direct and indirect interactions, not only between the tumor tissue and its vicinity, but also between the tumor and its macroenvironment, including the nervous system. Although several lines of evidence have implicated the nervous system in tumor growth and progression, for many years, researchers believed that tumors lacked innervation and the notion of indirect neuro-neoplastic interactions via other systems (e.g., immune, or endocrine) predominated. The original idea that tumors are supplied not only by blood and lymphatic vessels, but also autonomic and sensory nerves that may influence cancer progression, is not a recent phenomenon. Although in the past, mainly due to the insufficiently sensitive methodological approaches, opinions regarding the presence of nerves in tumors were inconsistent. However, data from the last decade have shown that tumors are able to stimulate the formation of their own innervation by processes called neo-neurogenesis and neo-axonogenesis. It has also been shown that tumor infiltrating nerves are not a passive, but active components of the tumor microenvironment and their presence in the tumor tissue is associated with an aggressive tumor phenotype and correlates with poor prognosis. The aim of the present review was to 1) summarize the available knowledge regarding the course of tumor innervation, 2) present the potential mechanisms and pathways for the possible induction of new nerve fibers into the tumor microenvironment, and 3) highlight the functional significance/consequences of the nerves infiltrating the tumors.