The “Emerging Field of Cancer Neuroscience”

As an outgrowth of a seminal meeting at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Banbury Center in December 2019, a white paper contributed to by Dr. David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD, FAAN, outlined the new field of “cancer neuroscience”.

This emerging scientific discipline is built on the idea that the nervous system normally controls the development, maintenance and plasticity of numerous organs throughout the body. However, the importance of nerve cells (neurons) to cancer is only just beginning to be appreciated. At this Banbury meeting, investigators studying a variety of different cancers showed that cancer formation, growth, and spread can be controlled by neurons.

The growing understanding of the importance of nerves to cancer is especially relevant to Neurofibromatosis, where most of the tumors arise in close association with nerves. Ongoing work in the Washington University NF Center is currently examining the key role of neurons in optic glioma and neurofibroma formation and growth.


Monje M, Borniger JC, D’Silva NJ, Deneen B, Dirks PB, Fattahi F, Frenette PS, Garzia L, Gutmann DH, Hanahan D, Hervey-Jumper SL, Hondermarck H, Hurov JB, Kepecs A, Knox SM, Lloyd AC, Magnon C, Saloman JL, Segal RA, Sloan EK, Sun X, Taylor MD, Tracey KJ, Trotman LC, Tuveson DA, Wang TC, White RA, Winkler F. Roadmap for the Emerging Field of Cancer Neuroscience. Cell. 2020 Apr 16;181(2):219-222.doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.03.034. PMID: 32302564