Macrophage to neuron-like cell transition – a mechanism underlying cancer pain
Cancer often causes pain, reducing a person's quality of life and even their chances of survival. Recent studies have shown that tumours can attract nerves to grow around and through them. Although this process is linked to poor outcomes, we don't understand how it happens or affects cancer pain. Here, we see cells in a tumour from a mouse with lung cancer – the colours describe each type of cell and its history. The yellow and orange cells behave like neurons but used to be macrophages, a type of immune system cell. Researchers discovered for the first time that macrophages in tumours can go through this transition. Transferring these neuron-like cells into mice with cancer increased their pain responses, suggesting they have a pivotal role in cancer pain. The scientists also identified a key protein involved in the transition – finding drugs to block it could provide relief for cancer patients.
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