Perineural invasion (PNI) is an ominous form of cancer progression in which cancer cells invade and track along nerves. PNI occurs most frequently in cancers that affect highly innervated organs, including pancreatic, head and neck, and prostate cancers. It is associated with increased recurrence and poor prognosis.
Our laboratory focuses on elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the process of PNI. We have identified a variety of ligand receptor–mediated interactions between cancer cells and the nerve microenvironment that reflect active communication and facilitate PNI. We have also demonstrated that activated Schwann cells recruit and disperse cancer cells, promoting invasive behavior along nerves.
We explore how PNI is enabled by reciprocal interactions between cancer cells and the nerve microenvironment. Ultimately, we aim to translate these discoveries into novel therapies aimed at interrupting this aggressive form of cancer progression.