Sympathetic nervous system regulation of the tumour microenvironment

Nat Rev Cancer. 2015 Sep;15(9):563-72. doi: 10.1038/nrc3978.


The peripheral autonomic nervous system (ANS) is known to regulate gene expression in primary tumours and their surrounding microenvironment. Activation of the sympathetic division of the ANS in particular modulates gene expression programmes that promote metastasis of solid tumours by stimulating macrophage infiltration, inflammation, angiogenesis, epithelial-mesenchymal transition and tumour invasion, and by inhibiting cellular immune responses and programmed cell death. Haematological cancers are modulated by sympathetic nervous system (SNS) regulation of stem cell biology and haematopoietic differentiation programmes. In addition to identifying a molecular basis for physiologic stress effects on cancer, these findings have also identified new pharmacological strategies to inhibit cancer progression in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / pathology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment*