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Volume 573 Issue 7775, 26 September 2019

Brain tumours take root

Brain tumours are among the most lethal cancers. Primary brain tumours called malignant gliomas and brain metastases from other organs are particularly intractable. Three papers in this week’s issue probe the nature of brain tumour growth, shedding light on how the cancerous cells hijack and integrate into the brain’s neural network. Michelle Monje and her colleagues, and Frank Winkler and his team each find that cancerous glioma cells form functional synapses with neurons. Douglas Hanahan and his co-workers demonstrate that breast cancer cells metastatic to the brain participate in synaptic structures as a perisynaptic partner. The cancerous cells then use these synapses to promote their growth — the researchers find that activation of the synapses is associated with cancer colonization of the brain, malignant cell proliferation and tumour growth, emphasizing the role played by neuronal activity in brain cancer.

Cover image: Rob Dobi

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