Cancer Res 2018 Jun 16;78(12):3233-3242. Epub 2018 Apr 16.
Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Mounting clinical and preclinical evidence supports a key role for sustained adrenergic signaling in the tumor microenvironment as a driver of tumor growth and progression. However, the mechanisms by which adrenergic neurotransmitters are delivered to the tumor microenvironment are not well understood. Here we present evidence for a feed-forward loop whereby adrenergic signaling leads to increased tumoral innervation. In response to catecholamines, tumor cells produced brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in an ADRB3/cAMP/Epac/JNK-dependent manner. Elevated BDNF levels in the tumor microenvironment increased innervation by signaling through host neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase 2 receptors. In patients with cancer, high tumor nerve counts were significantly associated with increased BDNF and norepinephrine levels and decreased overall survival. Collectively, these data describe a novel pathway for tumor innervation, with resultant biological and clinical implications. Sustained adrenergic signaling promotes tumor growth and metastasis through BDNF-mediated tumoral innervation. .