Nerve growth factor: role in growth, differentiation and controlling cancer cell development

Luigi Aloe, Maria Luisa Rocco, Bijorn Omar Balzamino, Alessandra Micera

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Recent progress in the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) research has shown that this factor acts not only outside its classical domain of the peripheral and central nervous system, but also on non-neuronal and cancer cells. This latter observation has led to divergent hypothesis about the role of NGF, its specific distribution pattern within the tissues and its implication in induction as well as progression of carcinogenesis. Moreover, other recent studies have shown that NGF has direct clinical relevance in certain human brain neuron degeneration and a number of human ocular disorders. These studies, by suggesting that NGF is involved in a plethora of physiological function in health and disease, warrant further investigation regarding the true role of NGF in carcinogenesis. Based on our long-lasting experience in the physiopathology of NGF, we aimed to review previous and recent in vivo and in vitro NGF studies on tumor cell induction, progression and arrest. Overall, these studies indicate that the only presence of NGF is unable to generate cell carcinogenesis, both in normal neuronal and non-neuronal cells/tissues. However, it cannot be excluded the possibility that the co-expression of NGF and pro-carcinogenic molecules might open to different consequence. Whether NGF plays a direct or an indirect role in cell proliferation during carcinogenesis remains to demonstrate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 21 2016


  • Cell differentiation
  • Cell proliferation
  • Naïve cell
  • NGF-receptors
  • Tumor cells NGF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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