Cancer and neurodegeneration: between the devil and the deep blue sea

PLoS Genet. 2010 Dec 23;6(12):e1001257. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001257.


Cancer and neurodegeneration are often thought of as disease mechanisms at opposite ends of a spectrum; one due to enhanced resistance to cell death and the other due to premature cell death. There is now accumulating evidence to link these two disparate processes. An increasing number of genetic studies add weight to epidemiological evidence suggesting that sufferers of a neurodegenerative disorder have a reduced incidence for most cancers, but an increased risk for other cancers. Many of the genes associated with either cancer and/or neurodegeneration play a central role in cell cycle control, DNA repair, and kinase signalling. However, the links between these two families of diseases remain to be proven. In this review, we discuss recent and sometimes as yet incomplete genetic discoveries that highlight the overlap of molecular pathways implicated in cancer and neurodegeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction