Therapeutic avenues for cancer neuroscience: translational frontiers and clinical opportunities

Lancet Oncol. 2022 Feb;23(2):e62-e74. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00596-9.


With increasing attention on the essential roles of the tumour microenvironment in recent years, the nervous system has emerged as a novel and crucial facilitator of cancer growth. In this Review, we describe the foundational, translational, and clinical advances illustrating how nerves contribute to tumour proliferation, stress adaptation, immunomodulation, metastasis, electrical hyperactivity and seizures, and neuropathic pain. Collectively, this expanding knowledge base reveals multiple therapeutic avenues for cancer neuroscience that warrant further exploration in clinical studies. We discuss the available clinical data, including ongoing trials investigating novel agents targeting the tumour-nerve axis, and the therapeutic potential for repurposing existing neuroactive drugs as an anti-cancer approach, particularly in combination with established treatment regimens. Lastly, we discuss the clinical challenges of these treatment strategies and highlight unanswered questions and future directions in the burgeoning field of cancer neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Pain / drug therapy
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Neurosciences*
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors