Cancer’s Got a Lot of Nerve

Lina Zeldovich in Nautilus:

Manish Vira, a urologist at Northwell Health in New York performs prostate biopsy procedures three to five times a week. He inserts 12 needles into specific locations on the prostate gland, identified by MRI images that reveal malignant or suspicious lesions. The samples then go to a pathologist who determines whether cancer is present and how aggressive it is. “It’s a standard protocol,” explains Vira, who is also a chief oncologist at Northwell.

For the past few years, however, that standard protocol had a few extra steps. Now, the biopsy “wash”—a collection of molecules washed off the sample—goes to the research lab of Lloyd Trotman, a professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, who studies what makes these tumors aggressive or aids their metastases. Trotman’s team looks at the tumors’ genomic signatures—their genetic make-up, which can make them more aggressive. They look at the tumors’ microenvironments—the molecules that cancer surrounds itself with. And while researching these factors, they also dig into something that’s rarely looked at in cancer biology: the nervous system and its role in helping tumors spread.

More here.