Serotonin and cancer: what is the link?
Curr Mol Med. 2015 ;15(1):62-77. PMID: 25601469
Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is a biogenic monoamine that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, local mediator in the gut and vasoactive agent in the blood. Serotonin exerts its multiple, sometimes opposing actions through interaction with a multiplicity of receptors coupled to various signalling pathways. In addition to its well-known functions, serotonin has been shown to be a mitogenic factor for a wide range of normal and tumoral cells. Serotonin exhibits a growth stimulatory effect in aggressive cancers and carcinoids more often through 5- HT1 and 5-HT2 receptors. In contrast, low doses of serotonin can inhibit tumour growth via the decrease of blood supply to the tumour, suggesting that the role of serotonin on tumour growth is concentration-dependent. Data are also available on serotonin involvement in cancer cell migration, metastatic processes and as a mediator of angiogenesis. Moreover, the progression of some tumours is accompanied by a dysregulation of the pattern of serotonin receptor expressions. Serum serotonin level was found to be suitable for prognosis evaluation of urothelial carcinoma in the urinary bladder, adenocarcinoma of the prostate and renal cell carcinoma. In some cases, antagonists of serotonin receptors, inhibitors of selective serotonin transporter and of serotonin synthesis have been successfully used to prevent cancer cell growth. This review revaluates serotonin involvement in several types of cancer and at different stages of their progression.