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'Novel therapies' could treat prostate cancer

Published: 19 Jul 2013

Though nerves are often found around tumours, scientists have not previously known to what extent they affect the development and spread of cancer.

A new study suggests that nerves actually play a "critical role" in the growth of prostate cancer - findings that could pave the way for new treatments to combat the disease.

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University used a mouse model and samples of human prostate tissue to determine whether the sympathetic nervous system - which is responsible for the body's 'fight or flight' response - affected tumour development.

After injecting the subjects with cancer cells, the scientists systematically disabled parts of their nervous systems and observed how the cells dealt with the changes.

The study confirmed that the sympathetic nervous system helps tumours grow, but it was also discovered that the parasympathetic nervous system - which usually keeps check on the body's normal functions - also contributed to the progression of cancer.

"Our findings raise the tantalising possibility that drugs targeting both branches of the autonomic nervous system may be useful therapies for prostate cancer," said Dr Paul Frenette, stem-cell expert and co-author of the paper.

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