Purpose: Perineural invasion is the only interaction between cancer cells and nerves studied to date. It is a symbiotic relationship between cancer and nerves that results in growth advantage for both. In this article, we present data on a novel biological phenomenon, cancer-related axonogenesis and neurogenesis.
Experimental design: We identify spatial and temporal associations between increased nerve density and preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions of the human prostate.
Results: Nerve density was increased in cancer areas as well as in preneoplastic lesions compared with controls. Two- and three-dimensional reconstructions of entire prostates confirmed axonogenesis in human tumors. Furthermore, patients with prostate cancer had increased numbers of neurons in their prostatic ganglia compared with controls, corroborating neurogenesis. Finally, two in vitro models confirmed that cancer cells, particularly when interacting with nerves in perineural invasion, induce neurite outgrowth in prostate cancer. Neurogenesis is correlated with features of aggressive prostate cancer and with recurrence in prostate cancer. We also present a putative regulatory mechanism based on semaphorin 4F (S4F). S4F is overexpressed in cancers cells in the perineural in vitro model. Overexpression of S4F in prostate cancer cells induces neurogenesis in the N1E-115 neurogenesis assay and S4F inhibition by small interfering RNA blocks this effect.
Conclusions: This is the first description of cancer-related neurogenesis and its putative regulatory mechanism.