Gliomas are highly malignant and invasive tumors with tendrils that extend far from the primary tumor site, rendering conventional therapies ineffective and leading to an invariably poor prognosis. In a new study published online this week in the open-access journal PLoS Biology, Angela Johnston, Donna Senger, and colleagues at the University of Calgary injected immunocompromised mice with human gliomas and compared invasive cells (which left the primary tumor site) to noninvasive cells (which remained at the site of injection) in order to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying this invasive behavior. They identified the neurotrophin receptor p75NTR, which normally functions during development to induce neurite outgrowth and promote neuronal cell death, as an important regulator of glioma invasion. The researchers present the first evidence that this neurotrophin receptor can also be a potent mediator of glioma invasion, and they show that the expression of this receptor is sufficient to impart a dramatic invasive behavior on genetically distinct tumors. These data highlight a previously unknown function of this receptor and suggest it may be a novel therapeutic target in the treatment of this devastating cancer.
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